It’s a Man! It’s the Mayor! It’s Mask Man!
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some lie right beneath our noses such as our superhero today. Mayor Gary Christenson and the City of Malden have stepped up in a very supportive way during the COVID-19 Pandemic: they have given out meals on Thanksgiving; they have done multiple flu shot clinics around the city, and they have distributed free Malden masks to the public. On Halloween day, however, Malden was able to see someone they had never seen: Mask Man.
He arrived at the Salemwood School that fateful Saturday dressed in his Mask Man attire which featured a #maskupmalden t-shirt, a cape with a big mask on it while also sporting a Malden mask. He did not arrive alone that day. He was accompanied by The Pirate, also known as Ward 7 Councilor, Neal Anderson. “[Anderson] got a call from the Mayor saying that he would be passing out masks in [his] ward, Ward 7, and [he] jumped to the opportunity to help at Bryant Street and Cross Street dressed in [his] Pirate costume.”
Anderson said that when he was passing out masks “often times motorists would see us coming up at the traffic light and were immediately weary of [them] trying to sell them something or beg for something” and that they “needed to be able to show the drivers that [selling them something or begging for something] is not what we were doing, rather we were trying to offer them something for their own safety and for the safety of all of us.”
Anderson feels that “[Malden has] a serious situation with this pandemic and that unfortunately there are not enough people taking it seriously.” He further explained that because people are not taking enough precautions “city officials and other elected officials have to continue to stress how important it is that we follow these CDC guidelines” and that “there are too many people who seem to be mask deniers and not believing in the science behind all of this.”
When asked about the impact of Mask Man in Malden, Anderson stated “[he] thinks this is a major effort in stopping the spread.” He added that it seems obvious that there are things we need to be doing “until we get a vaccine” available for Malden residents. Anderson is a believer in the scientists who are working on the vaccine and finding the science behind COVID-19.
Mayor Christenson believes that Malden is “doing the best we can with what we have.” He expressed that this is something completely new that “we have never experienced [...] before.” Christenson believes that in a city like ours “who have so many essential workers and so many dedicated students and roughly 8,000 to 10,000 senior citizens, going back over the last 7-8 months [he feels that] we have been doing good.”
Mask Man was originally created to “get a different way to reach people.” Near the time Mask Man was being created, the number of cases in Malden were increasing heavily in the 20-50 year old age group, so Mayor Christenson had the idea to make a new member of Marvel Studios Avengers to connect with the people. “That age group had an affinity for the Avengers so creating and using a common interest would get people involved more with slowing the spread.”
The mayor believes that this has worked “because [they] have distributed hundreds of masks as a result and now as a matter of fact when people see [him] in the street, they say ‘where is your cape?’” and “in the messages I received about Mask Man, it was received very positively. [He] thinks anybody appreciates someone trying to find a way to help and care to reach people so [he] thinks they appreciate the effort by [them].”
Mayor Christenson has even been spotted by citizens from other cities in his Mask Man persona. “[They] have had people from other cities and towns reach out to [them] if they saw [him] out and about and thought that it was helpful by promoting the message of following the guidelines on slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
Mayor Christenson also feels strongly about the protection of the students of Malden, going out to say that “[they] are our future, our most valuable asset” so keeping students safe was his top priority. Over the summer, Mayor Christenson voted “to start the school year fully remote,” because “at that point [they] were not quite sure what we were dealing with.” Christenson stated that it would be “better to be safe than sorry.” Therefore, students, teachers and faculty began the school year completely online “until [they knew] more about the virus and what the timeline would be developing a vaccine.”
As recently as October, Malden decided to bring the higher needs students back in the buildings so they can receive the support that they need. Christenson is happy to say there “have not had any cases emanate from within the district,” since making this change.
Christenson also hinted at the city starting to consider sending students back in person as he stated “currently they are in negotiations with teachers on the next step of bringing back more of [the] students.” He explained that he has talked to many students recently and most of them have claimed that it is “more impactful to be in school.”
Who knows when we will see the next sighting of Mask Man due to this cold weather. No one knows, but when duty calls, “[he has] the cape down the hallway so [it is] always at the ready.”