In some ways, a boardwalk at the beach is not much different from a city street. People walk past one another, sometimes passing close, sometimes not. But judging by the stretch near Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Beach, there is something about strolling on the boardwalk that makes people let down their guard, and their masks.
One of the few masked people, Andrew Zinn, 61, noticed the parade of bare faces as he sat on a bench in the early evening. “Not good, basically,” said Mr. Zinn, who lives in an assisted-living building nearby.
A 19-year-old named Cristian had taken the subway from Harlem to go to the beach with three friends. Only one of the four wore a mask. Cristian, who declined to give his last name, barely offered an excuse.
“Mine is somewhere in my book bag,” he said, “and I’m too tired to look for it.”
The mask survey was conducted July 27-30, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. The heat index (a combination of temperature and humidity) during survey times ranged from 86 to 97 degrees.
At each location, the enumerator tallied between 340 to 567 people (excluding partially masked people), enough for a margin of sampling error of less than 5 percentage points, which was calculated by Melody S. Goodman, associate dean for research at N.Y.U.’s School of Global Public Health.
People were considered partially masked if they had a mask visible on their person, including in their hand, but had at least one breathing orifice uncovered. We counted only pedestrians, not people traveling by bike or skateboard. We included people who were eating, drinking or smoking.
We did not ask what gender people identified as and sorted them based on their apparent gender. Because the number of people of one gender was smaller than the overall number at a location, the one-gender numbers have larger margins of error — up to 8 percentage points. Nevertheless, in nine of the 14 locations, the gap between male and female mask-wearing was statistically significant, meaning it was bigger than the margin of error.
Across the 14 locations, and excluding partially masked people, 75 percent of people were masked — 69 percent of men and 82 percent of women. Of the total of 7,545 people, 23 percent of the men and 17 percent of the women were partially masked. These are not to be taken as representative citywide figures, however, because our counts were not conducted at random locations; we chose locations in part because they had relatively high pedestrian density. The true citywide mask-wearing prevalence is presumably lower.