Is there any reason face clothing is more difficult to police than other clothing?

One thing that I’ve heard often from authorities during the COVID era is that they can’t police mask wearing. Schools state that they can’t possibly enforce something like that, lawmakers and some LEOs argue that it’s a matter of constitutional freedom that they can’t override, and other LEOs just decline to do so. But enforcing clothing restrictions is routine and generally uncontroversial for any of these groups. Schools have dress codes, lawmakers are happy to pass indecent exposure laws even ones with obvious equal protection issues, and cops are happy to arrest people for walking about naked or inadequately closed.

So, why is it routine and easy for states to require the genitals and anus to be covered, but can’t do the same for nose and mouth now? Why do so many schools insist that a mask is a step too far, but are fine with having female students do a ‘fingertip test’ for skirt/shorts length? Why is “No shirt, no shoes, no service” routine but “No mask, no service” a big deal? I am obviously aware that there is a strong political movement against masks, but what I am trying to examine here is if there is any actual reason that mandating masks should be harder than mandating pants. Whether legal, medical, or even just simple reasoning, I can’t see how one can make any kind of reasoned argument that masks are fundamentally different than other clothing that is mandated without issue (or with only equal protection issues)?

I had to smile at this one. Forgive me for where my mind went😉

There’s you sticking point. Anti-maskers are totally anti-reason. And you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

Personally, I want fewer people being arrested right now; jails and prisons are fueling the spread.

I suspect you already know this, as you pointed it out in your first paragraph: No, it isn’t any harder to police, but since it has been made very very political to do so, many enforcement agencies are unwilling to do so. The only case I can see is the one for schools, and only in that children (including many teenagers!) are harder to discipline especially if they’re being told that they don’t need to worry at home, and most teachers already have far, far too much on their plates to fight a losing battle, when they’re already getting bupkis for support from many school systems.

In contrast, schools seem to have had few problems altering dress codes for transparent backpacks and instituting school shooting bills, which while a real problem, are likely to have a lower bodycount that the total lives lost to COVID. So again, the answer is political - especially when based on our current polarization, 50% of the children’s parents are likely to be upset at either a requirement for, or relaxing of restrictions.

The first set are routinely covered. In fact many (most?) people suffer severe embarrassment if those are exposed in public. People do not routinely cover their face.

The number of people walking around naked is pretty low (in most cultures), so enforcement (when it’s even necessary) is pretty easy. One guy running around sans underpants? Easy. A dozen people going around without masks? Not so easy.

In Toronto, where masks are far less political in the US, many people go outside without masks. They almost always wear a mask if they’re going shopping, visiting the doctor, going on transit, etc, but nobody is really able to enforce the (by my unscientific guess) half of the population who goes outside without a mask, or the idiots who don’t realize that the nose breathes in and out.

I imagine the problem must be worse in some parts of the United States. Fortunately not too many Canadians are gathering in large numbers.

As said above, it’s 90+% politics, politics, politics.

And of course in the age of Trump half of politics is stone cold stupid.

But here are a few at least potentially legit issues.

  1. The Feds have never mandated masks; they’ve only recommended them. Many states, counties, etc., have mandated them in a bewildering patchwork of situations. All by executive order, not legislation. Under the relevant state or local laws, do those executives actually have that specific authority? There hasn’t been time for that to be tested in the relevant local courts, much less further up the appeal chain. Does Federal preemption apply? This certainly has not been tested all the way to the SCOTUS.

  2. Masks, especially ones thick/solid enough to do real good obstruct breathing to some extent (5%, 10%?). Some people have legit medical issues with losing that much breathing. Everybody agrees they’re mildly annoying to wear, although becoming less so as we all get used to them. Every mask order I have seen includes some manner of medical necessity exemption.

    Given the court-tested legal reality of the ADA, once someone claims medical exemption, any would-be enforcer is prohibited from doing anything but believing the maskless person is telling the truth. Any further inquiry, demanding a doctor’s note, etc. is strictly prohibited. A similar situation obtains with pets disguised as “emotional support animals”. People who want to flout no-pets laws or regulations can simply claim it’s an ESA and that claim, with no evidence whatsoever, is an absolute get-out-of-jail-free card.

  3. Enforcement of anything is practical only when the vast majority are already complying. Those of us old enough to remember the 55mph national speed limit also remember that real quickly it turned into a joke. When a hefty fraction of the public simply refuses, there aren’t enough police and enough courts and enough collective willingness to move the needle. Here in greater Miami the speed limit on I-95 is posted at 65mph. The actual speed of traffic is about 85 with many people pushing 100. And it’s simply impossible for the cops to make a dent in that behavior. Despite the massive revenue they could collect with every citation.

  4. For commercial establishments, it is not clear where liability lies. Their legitimate business reaction to uncertainty is paralysis which amounts to doing what they did before COVID started. If a store insists its employees enforce masks and an employee or another customer is injured or killed in the ensuing firefight with a mask-hater, is the business liable? If they refuse service, are they engaging in unlawful discrimination? etc.

    As with item 1, the courts have not yet had time to answer these questions definitively. And even if they did, those would be local answers to local questions. Which pose legitimate difficulties for national businesses which really want/need national-scale policies. Here locally they’ve tried to square this circle by writing the later versions of the mask orders to make business owners and business managers on duty both civilly and criminally liable for any non-enforcement. In other words, make the managers more scared of being sued /arrested by the government for non-enforcement than being scared of being sued for enforcement and its consequences. Nice idea, but as yet untested in the courts. Which loops back to item 1. Can the county executive invent that crime or assign that liability? Strictly speaking that’s unknown; it’s 100% a legal mystery awaiting a test.

I suspect custom and tradition make it easier to enforce rules/laws regarding the exposure of genitals and anuses, or, to put it in more technical terms, the no-no regions. Wearing clothing that covers our bodies is pretty ingrained in most of us. How many times have you wandered into the public and seen someone sans pants or with their dick in their hand? Wearing masks isn’t so ingrained. I’ve been wearing one in public for six months now but I consider it a temporary part of my life unlike pants which I expect will be with me the rest of my life.

The governor of the great state of Arkansas requires us to wear masks in buildings which serve the public. But quite often I see people wearing their masks around their chin instead of covering their mouth and nose. The truth of the matter is that there are a large number of people who simply don’t want to wear the mask for whatever reason. And when you have a large percentage of the people who are not interested in following the law there isn’t much the police can do.

I talked to a cop in a town that only passed a face mask requirement like two months ago. He told me he would not enforce it since he felt it was pointless that they waited so long to require face masks be worn in the county.

Enforce wearing masks outside? Correct me if I’m wrong, but here in Toronto masks are only mandated to be worn inside stores, etc. There’s nothing to enforce outside, even on “the idiots” like me who wear no mask when we’re out walking.

As a teacher, the mask issue is harder to deal with than other dress code problems. Most dress code rules are relatively easy to enforce one time and then it’s done for the day.

Pot on your shirt? Leave your sweatshirt on all day. Bandana? Take it off. Truly inappropriately short shorts (but thank god we don’t have the stupid dollar/fingertip tests)? Put on the other pair you brought because you knew this wouldn’t fly.

Hood? Down. That’s repeated and getting annoying. Masks are worse. It’s easy to make sure all kids have a mask when they hit the doors of the building (and we have some for kids that forget). It’s a lot harder to have them wear it correctly consistently. Kids take a drink and don’t put it back on fully, or they don’t fit great and slip, or they’re just uncomfortable and pull it down. And you can remind them to fix it, and they will. But it won’t be a dress code violation. Just part of classroom management.

Don’t have any kids that truly refuse masking. If I did, that’d be an escalation to admin issue for defiance, not a dress code thing.

(Also, I’m glad that my new principal is ex HS and does not believe in being a stickler on the dress code. It may not be different on paper, but it’s notably different in enforcement. Which is nice, because ripped jeans are in again, and I do not want to deal with it. I’m still wanting my district to finally gender neutralize and relax the dress code rules, but it’s so much better than when I started 8 years ago)

Because those restrictions are largely culturally self-enforced, not imposed by authority.

The ability of authorities of any kind to direct public behavior is relatively limited. They can mostly enforce rules that a vast majority of people already agree with.

What school officials are saying is that they don’t have the public support to enforce the rule. If a bunch of voters think this is all a bullshit hoax, then whatever level of school administrator is or answers directly to an elected official will find himself out of a job pretty quick.

Imagine that, tomorrow, 30% of the population decided that clothing was an affront on their fundamental human rights. Do you think the police could enforce public nudity laws?

So, from the responses so far the only difference is ‘there’s a large group of people that police don’t like to enforce laws against that don’t want to wear masks’, which falls squarely into ‘political reason’ category.

Police are fine with enforcing traffic laws even though the vast majority of the population drives over the speed limit, and were fine with enforcing seat belt laws, child seat laws, and drunk driving laws even when those didn’t have broad general support long enough and consistently enough for them to become standard. So I don’t buy the argument that enforcing laws that lots of people flaunt is actually difficult or impossible for police to do, handing out bunches of fines is one of their favorite activities. The fact that these particular laws have not been tested in court is certainly no barrier to police enforcing them; the police routinely enforce laws that have been already been ruled invalid in court when they feel like it. Schools are fine with enforcing things like ‘keep your shoulders covered’ and ‘do this fingertip test for your shorts’, so while some teachers may not want to, they’re clearly capable of enforcing dress codes and it’s certainly not out of the question to do so.

I didn’t really expect there to be any real reason beyond politics or ‘they don’t really want to’, and that seems to be where the responses are headed.

I will note: I have not seen a single school official say that, much less enough to make it a general statement for them. That may well be the REASON that they claim they can’t enforce masks, but ‘lack of public support’ is not the statement they are making. The whole point of me asking was to see if there was some actual reason beyond the political reason which they don’t want to admit to, and there doesn’t appear to be.

Yes, absolutely. Like we’ve seen with BLM protests, if large portions of people go outside doing something the cops don’t like, they’re perfectly willing to break out tear gas, ‘less than lethal’ weapons, beatings, chokings, mass arrests that don’t result in charges that stick, drive-bys with pepper ball guns, and the like.

While I can see that public decency laws are mostly enforced by custom and not police, I agree that it’s a total cop out when saying they can’t enforce it in schools. They were able to enforce rules about shorts length and whether your belly showed at my school. And they had to look very carefully to spot those.

Yeah, your parents may say it’s okay, but the same happened with clothes or hair colors and such. They still were able to push “maybe that’s okay at home, but at school, it’s ‘distracting to the learning environment’.”

I do just see it as an excuse from people who don’t actually think they should have to wear masks, either. I mean, surely having to constantly watch out to see who is wearing a mask to stay safe takes a lot of your ability to pay attention in class, more so than just the virus itself.

Especially when it’s in places that don’t do their best to allow students to stay at home if possible. I still don’t get why high school is in session at all, as high school students are old enough to stay at home even if parents are away, and at least my area has school sponsored Internet, Chromebooks or iPads for everyone, and cheap $10/month broadband from the local cable company for anyone with kids in school, to cover anyone who aren’t poor enough for school Internet.

But they have to WANT to minimize the risk per the actual CDC guidelines.

As for parents getting mad? Sorry, your kid can’t come to school. Schools are in the power position here at this point, as trying to pull a lawsuit about them having to wear masks would fail so hard.

In my state it’s already been to the Supreme Court. Can you explain what federal law you think would preempt the state laws?

In my state, I believe that the direction is for businesses to enforce the mask mandate, and find alternative ways to accommodate. So, if someone says they can’t wear a mask, then the business should offer a reasonable accommodation, such as having an employee do the person’s shopping for them, offering curbside service, using videoconferencing, etc., as appropriate for the business. Assistance and support animals have specific laws that apply to them. This is really a different scenario, I think.

To me it is a simple answer:

  1. Math!

People as a whole, are good with the idea of covering genitalia. People, lots of people, are having trouble with masks.

It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong.

Sure. And I’m saying: read between the lines. Rules that a significant percentage of people disagree with are very difficult to apply.

I think you’re off by a few orders of magnitude here.

The Portland Oregon metro area, for example, has a population of 2.4 million people, and a fairly strong protest movement that’s drawn between 1,000 to 8000 people a day. So you’re looking at between 0.02 and 0.3% of the population protesting.

If there were 600,000 Portlanders protesting for BLM, the cops couldn’t do shit.

I have heard school officials cite younger kids and as potentially causing enforcement difficulties. And I think there is some logic to that.

When it became clear that wearing a mask was going to be a condition for being in public, I thought it was going to mean that younger kids and kids who have certain issues would have to be stuck at home. I worried if school opened up that one of my kids (6 at the begining of this, 7 now) would be getting sent home, and would maybe get kicked out altogether as posing a health and safety hazard. She has sensory and impulsivity issues that I thought might make wearing a mask for a whole school day impossible for her.

It turns out that she can manage for longer than I thought, and of course the longer this goes, the more it’s the new normal for them. But I had, and still have, concerns about whether schools can reliably enforce mask wearing, and if so, if that enforcement will take the form of kicking out a bunch of young kids who are less mature or have special needs, or are not neurotypical. And those tend to be the kids who most need in person instruction from trained professionals. And it would be very bad if those categories of kids were being systematically kicked out of schools.

For reasons I’m not going to get into, certain people at my job are required to wear masks at all times. Not just in common areas, not just when they are within 6 feet of other people*. At all times. It is impossible to enforce this without someone basically watching them every minute - it’s much easier to remove a mask than it is to remove pants. So when I come upon these people in their cubicles, at least 50% of the time they have their masks out of place. Enforcing mask wearing in schools is going to be more or less difficult based on the situation - a kindergarten class of 20 in a class that stays together all day is very different from a high school of 4000 during the change of classes

  • Yes, they can remove then to eat or drink, But that’s it . They can be sitting in their office or cubicle alone all morning and still they are required to wear a mask.

And in the paragraph that you quoted part of, I said that whole point of me asking was to see if there was some actual reason beyond the political reason which they don’t want to admit to. It’s clear that I have already read between the lines, but was interested in whether there was any real reason. And enforcing rules on public behavior that a significant percentage of people disagree with is very easy and routinely done. There was huge opposition to various public smoking bans when they were implemented, but those laws were enforced and are the new normal. Same with helmet laws, seat belt laws, and DUI laws - all had a large percentage of the population opposed, and were implemented anyway. And drug laws continue to be rigidly enforced despite majority opposition in many places (including federally). Prohibition (alcohol) had significant opposition, but enforcement in public establishments was nearly complete, and mask mandates don’t need to be enforced in private.