Governments can increase mask use without mandates by making masks widely available in any commercial or public setting in which people spend time together indoors, especially during surges. State and local governments can do what New York City did for condoms: contract with a manufacturer for a continuous supply of high-quality (e.g., N95 or equivalent) masks.

People often make split-second assessments based on what everyone else is doing. Humans inherently worry about fitting in. I’ve been at events where I took off my mask, because it felt as if I was the only one wearing one. Similar to condoms, mask wearing needs to be actively promoted, even when there’s no requirement: Make it seem socially acceptable to wear a mask and socially unacceptable to criticize those who do.

Some may wonder if masks have become so politicized that such initiatives wouldn’t work. But I think there’s a window of opportunity to make the mask-agnostic more likely to use them. There will most likely always be a group of people who will never wear a mask, a group who will often wear one and many others in between. If you can push a fraction of the agnostic mask wears to don them during surges, that could reduce transmission when it happens across a large population. Data suggest that most Americans are supportive of masks in certain settings.

Governments can also extend this approach to Covid testing. Rapid test kits should be distributed anywhere people work or congregate indoors, especially since, unlike with H.I.V. testing, these kits require no medical personnel and no special counseling for a positive result.

While test kits and masks can alter the architecture of choice — making people choose to use these where they might not ordinarily — physical architecture can also prevent Covid-19 infections.

The White House announced a federal effort to improve indoor air quality and reduce Covid transmission through ventilation, filtration and air disinfection. In public health, the most effective interventions are those that do not require individuals to change their behavior and in which healthy options are simply available to them by default, such as clean water. At the state and local level, governments should consider comprehensive legislation that requires facilities to adhere to stricter indoor air quality standards, as well as to purchase and provide rapid test kits and high-quality masks to all employees and customers, just as many jurisdictions require facilities to have adequate equipment or services for other health and safety reasons, including appropriately sized and stocked bathroom facilities, clean running water, first-aid kits, defibrillators and fire extinguishers.

Vaccine mandates — which I greatly support — appear to have become increasingly unpopular, but deaths from Covid among groups like the elderly are inexcusable now that vaccines are available. Cities should consider bringing back vaccine checks for certain businesses and events. As a policy, they do not require anyone to be vaccinated, but they make daily life very inconvenient if you haven’t received your shots, similar to how indoor smoking bans reduce cigarette smoking by making it more difficult and less socially acceptable to do.

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