Letter: Disappointing Incident on Elm Street


I work with Staying Put in New Canaan. Most of our members—and most of the older population in our town—have spent the last four months of this pandemic hunkered down in their homes, often isolated from family and friends, trying to protect themselves from becoming infected with the virus. For many, it has been a trying and lonely period. As the weather has improved and the incidence of the virus in our area has declined, I have encouraged our members to get out, while remembering to socially distance and wear a mask when that is not possible. 

One of our members was on Elm Street this week. She was wearing a mask and passed a younger woman on the sidewalk. The younger woman—in her 30’s—was unmasked and our member asked her to please wear a mask, that not only does it protect the younger woman, but also protects her. The younger woman replied angrily, using profanity, that she didn’t care. 

I find this incident profoundly disappointing on a number of different levels. First, what ever happened to common courtesy? Is this how we respond to a complete stranger, asking someone, politely, to wear a mask? Second, even if a person is willing to risk his or her own health, what gives that person the right to risk someone else’s? Lastly, wearing a mask—especially downtown—is something our first selectman and every public health professional in town has asked us to do. It is the right thing to do. Do it. 

I never thought I would hear about an incident like this in our town. I implore people to try and think beyond themselves, to try and put themselves in the shoes of others who are older or have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus. Telling people to “just stay home” is unacceptable. Every resident has the right to move about our town safely. Please, New Canaan, we are better than this. 

Nicola Holzberger, MPH
Director, Member Services
Staying Put in New Canaan

9 thoughts on “Letter: Disappointing Incident on Elm Street

  1. Well stated, as I’ve found many people inconsiderate to others self affacing rude totally inappropriate dialog manner. It starts from top of who was elected to be abrasive to others.

  2. Wearing masks are so important to our safety. People will feel the group pressure to conform when enough people wear them, so let’s wear them, and be as safe as we can be, for ourselves and others. It’s not much to ask.
    And being rude, as reported here, is just never ok.

  3. All of this is so disturbing, but especially the younger woman’s response to the older woman. By the time my kids were 3 years old they knew to be respectful to everyone, but especially to those who were older than them. My sincere apologies to your friend, a member of Staying Put. And please thank her for her courage in reminding those who don’t have a clue about appropriate ways to behave in public, especially now.

  4. Nic
    I’m proud to be in the same town as you.

    Hopefully that profane woman will reflect on her actions and the example she is setting for children

  5. The rudeness is of course inexcusable.

    On the other hand, the lady from Staying Put had no business to act as self-appointed mask police.

    The risk to contract virus just passing by an unmasked stranger outdoors is minuscule. This risk actually increases when one stops and talks to this stranger, telling him/her to wear mask, because a) instead of brief contact you have now a prolonged one; and b) you force this stranger to talk to you, and by talking he/she projecs a stream of saliva particles aerosole in your general direction. And this is the main way the virus spreads.

    Asking people to wear masks outdoors is a form of mass hysteria. Please don’t participate.

  6. Being rude is totally uncalled for, to say the least. The senior citizens in our town do so much for this community; they deserve our respect, not rude attitudes.
    If anyone has a specific reason why she/he do not don a mask, it would go better for everyone to explain in a polite way.

  7. If you cross the tracks at Talmadge Hill once the gates start coming down and making noise you face a $181 penalty. If you let your yard and house paint go to pot you face $100 a day for blight. If you park in one of those new yellow-line areas near a crosswalk you face shelling out $75 for the privilege. And yet the only thing you face for not wearing a face mask is someone asking you to put one on, or, in extreme cases, their shade. Seems those who can’t be bothered to do the healthy, neighborly and decent thing are getting off pretty easy. Maybe a temporary, mandatory town ordinance with a stiff fine might teach them some manners? Crazy that the insensitive among us should get to put everyone’s health at risk for free.

  8. While there is no excuse for being rude, wearing a mask outdoors should not be mandatory as the risk is very low. I agree with mask usage indoors or outdoors such as at restaurants where proximity is unavoidable.

  9. Maybe what we need is a Facebook page ” no mask hall of shame” where people can post pictures of those to selfish to consider others health.

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