Two Aggie Public Health Ambassadors share their experiences giving out masks to the public
It may not come as a huge surprise to those who have accepted free items from Aggie Public Health Ambassadors—40.8% of students who participated in Best of Davis this year voted face masks as the best item to be given out, among other free items such as hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and a contactless door-opening tool. Since September 2020, Aggie Public Health Ambassadors have been encouraging safety protocols in the Davis community both on campus and downtown as a part of the Healthy Davis Together initiative. One of the roles of health ambassadors involves handing out free reusable face masks to those who do not have their face covered.
Naomi Maruoka, a second-year international relations major, shared that face masks are the most popular item she gives out as a health ambassador.
“Everyone loves them; they’re super comfortable and they’re a great way to show support for UC Davis,” Maruoka said. “They really put UC Davis out there in a good light.”
In order to encourage mask-wearing, Maruoka says that she and her coworkers do their best to convince members of the public of the quality of the reusable masks, which feature prints that read either “UC Davis” or “Aggies.”
“We’ll say, ‘Hey, we noticed that you’re not wearing a mask, can we offer you a free one?’” Maruoka said. “‘It’s reusable, and it has really comfortable adjustable straps.’”
While serving the community, in addition to encouraging mask-wearing, she also informs the public of health resources, and she said she’s experienced few instances of people who outright refuse to comply with health orders.
“I think the majority of our interactions with the public are super positive, and we’re really just there to provide information about the resources Davis has, like testing on campus and in the city for free,” Maruoka said. “The vaccinations have been a new part too, we’ve been really helping [direct] people toward where they can get vaccinated.”
When offering a mask to a member of the public who isn’t wearing one, Maruoka said she takes a gentle and encouraging approach rather than ordering their compliance.
“Our main way of asking people to wear face coverings is by giving them a free mask—I mean, who can resist a free gift?” Maruoka said. “So those interactions are always pretty positive.”
Elliott Napier, a fourth-year electrical engineering major, works many of his health ambassador shifts stationed at the doors of the Memorial Union or at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Napier said he spends the majority of the time at his shifts checking daily symptom surveys, advocating mask-wearing and educating those who have questions. In his experience, few are reluctant to respond to his requests to wear a mask correctly.
“Most of the time, people are really good about it, and if anyone’s not, it’s usually just because they forgot,” Napier said. “I don’t think I’ve dealt with anyone who’s refused to wear a mask. Some people do the thing where they wear it around their chin and then you ask them to wear it properly and they kind of get a little huffy, but they always do it.”
When Maruoka does come across someone who refuses to wear a mask, she will often give them a free one anyway.
“In those situations, those ones are always a little trickier to deal with, but we do realize that at some point, there’s only so much we can ask, so we really do just encourage them to take it,” Maruoka said. “Even if they don’t think they’re going to wear it then, we do still try and give them the material that they need to help keep the community safe.”
During her time as a health ambassador, Maruoka has found that she sees herself as less of an authority figure and more of a service provider for the community.
“It’s not as much about enforcing masks as it is encouraging a sense of community and encouraging everyone to do their part and rewarding people who are doing their part,” Maruoka said.
Written by: Lyra Farrell — firstname.lastname@example.org