Video: If People Don't Wear Masks

This video, by ASERT Western Region, covers important do’s and don’ts if you see people not wearing a mask while in public.

For more information:

Video OverviewVideo Transcript

While most people in the scientific community recognize that wearing masks can help limit the spread of COVID-19 and there are rules in place requiring people to wear masks in stores and indoor public spaces, there are some people who may not be able to wear masks due to medical conditions. If you are out in public and see someone not wearing a mask, it may make you feel lots of different emotions. You may be confused, scared, worried, or even mad. Having information on what to do if you see someone not wearing a mask can help reduce any anxiety you may have.

Review the questions below for suggestions on what you can do if you see someone without a mask while you’re out in public or shopping in a store.

Why should I wear a mask?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that you could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. When you wear a mask, you do it to protect other people in case you are infected. Everyone should wear a mask in public and when around people who do not live in your house. Remember, keeping 6 feet between yourself and others is important even when wearing a mask. Wearing mask is not a substitute for social distancing.

When and where should I wear a mask?

  • Public places like grocery stores, your workplace, social gatherings, or closed/indoor settings, including schools and places of worship.
  • If you are living in cramped or crowded spaces and in specific settings, such as camps, shelters, or homes with more than one family living in the same house.
  • When using public transportation like a bus, plane, or train.
  • At work if you are in close contact or potential close contact with others.
  • When you are around people who have a higher risk if they get COVID-19. This includes people over 60-years-old, people with underlying conditions (like heart disease, diabetes mellitus, chronic lung disease, cancer, or cerebrovascular disease) or who have a lower immune system.

What should I do if someone near me is not wearing a mask?

  • There are some people who choose not to wear a mask, or may be unable to wear a mask because of a medical condition. This can make you feel uncomfortable, scared for your well-being, and even a little bit angry.
  • You may want to tell the person to wear their mask. Some people may be okay with you asking them to put on a mask. Other people may become angry or aggressive. They may yell, swear or try to hit you.
  • It is best to not try and make someone wear a mask. If possible, you should just move away from them to a place where you feel safer.

Do’s and Don’ts

The lists below provide quick do’s and don’ts for what to do if you see someone without a mask. It covers situations where you know the individual well, or if the person is a stranger.


If you know and are comfortable with the person:

  • Do start by acknowledging what the person does like about masks.
  • Do use an example like: “I know the mask
  • Do use “I” statements about how it makes you feel. For example:
    • “I feel uncomfortable mentioning this, but I’m concerned because…”
    • “I feel protected when you wear your mask.’
  • If it is yourself or a family member you want to protect Do ask them to at least wear a mask when in contact with you or the family member.
    For example: “Do what you want other times, but can we agree that you wear a mask when you visit me/Dad?”

If you do not know the person well or they are a stranger:

  • Do face away or turn your back until they pass.
  • Do talk to a manager or someone in charge and explain your discomfort. Keep in mind that not all public places are following the same guidelines.

Do Not’s

  • Do Not use public shaming, bullying, or threatening to try to change the person’s thoughts or behaviors.
  • Do Not attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention strategies, like wearing a mask.
  • If you ask someone to please stand back or please stand away from you and they won’t or it’s not possible to keep 6 feet away, leave.
  • Do Not approach someone if you are feeling angry, anxious, or fearful because the person may become defensive or angry with you.
  • Do Not put you or your family in an upsetting or potentially dangerous situation. If you’re uncomfortable with a lack of wearing a mask, or physical distance, be prepared to leave the area.

Rate this resource

Thank you for rating this resource!

Download entire resource (pdf)

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.