The Year 2020, As Told Through Face Masks

We spread messages while preventing the spread of COVID-19.

If 2020 were a story, it would be one that can be told without saying a word. This year, we wore our hearts on our sleeves — or rather, our faces.

What should not have been considered a political act — wearing a mask to protect ourselves and others from the coronavirus — lent itself to taking a stand against police brutality and racism, to support presidential candidates, to evoke laughter, and even to make a fashion statement this year.

All over the country people used their protective gear to send messages and exhibit self-expression. Face masks will continue to play a role in 2021, but for better or worse, we’ll never forget this year.

Below, a look back at 2020, as told by our many face masks.

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Jason De Puy wears a face mask that reads "Black Trans Lives Matter" during a solidarity march with Refuse Fascism and All Black Lives Matter in Hollywood, California, on June 14.
Jonathan Drake / Reuters
Donovan Faison, a 27-year-old first-time voter, wears an unusual mask and sunglasses at a polling station in Durham, North Carolina, on Nov. 3.
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A woman wearing a mask poses in New York City on July 7.
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Greg Snyder wears a campaign-themed face mask while listening to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speak at a drive-in rally in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 2.
Lindsey Wasson / Reuters
Cesia Kearns wearing glasses and a face mask outside a polling place in Seattle on Nov. 3.
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Tina Fey during the "30 Rock: A One Time Special" on July 16.
MARANIE R. STAAB via Getty Images
A protester wears a face mask bearing an image of George Floyd, who was killed by police in May, on Sept. 7.
Caitlin Ochs / Reuters
A person dressed up for Halloween as a Simpsons character smokes a cigarette through a matching mask in Brooklyn, New York, on Oct. 31.
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Marta Poling Schmitt at a voting event with Chelsea Handler in Henderson, Nevada, on Oct. 31.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
A showgirl in a face mask at the reopening of Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on July 23.
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A woman wearing a protective face mask in New York City on May 2.
Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19.
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A man wearing a Marilyn Monroe mask poses in Times Square in New York City on July 28.
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Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) wears a face mask featuring drawings of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during a confirmation hearing for judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 12.
Mike Blake / Reuters
A nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in California as hospital staff celebrate the release of a COVID-19 patient after 45 days in their care on May 5.
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Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) during a congressional hearing on "worldwide threats to the homeland" on Sept. 17.
Emily Elconin / Reuters
A woman wearing a face that says "Respect us, protect us, pay us" joins fast-food and nursing home workers at a "My Vote is Essential" even in Detroit on Oct. 24.
Brian van der Brug via Getty Images
Junior Ashto Summers, 16, wears a Black Lives Matter mask as he joins fellow students and community members in support of a teacher at El Camino Charter High School who received death threats after wearing an "I can't breathe" shirt during an online lesson in August.
Go Nakamura / Reuters
Deirdre Barrett wears a mask that says "Spelman Women Vote" as she waits in line to cast an early ballot in Houston on Oct. 13.
San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images via Getty Images
Carolyn Wysinger wears a Colin Kaepernick face mask in San Francisco on June 15 during a celebration of the Supreme Court's decision barring sex-based discrimination against LGBTQ employees in the workplace.
Mike Segar / Reuters
A woman wears a U.S. Postal Service-themed mask as workers rally on the steps of the James A. Farley Post Office in New York City on Aug. 25.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Kinshasa Skyne Harris of Washington, D.C., wears an "I Voted" sticker on her face mask after participating in early voting on Oct. 27.
Carlo Allegri / Reuters
A woman wears a "Teacher Strong" mask while attending a rally to protest the opening of schools in New York City on Sept. 1.
Boston Globe via Getty Images
July 18: Whole Foods employee Savannah Kinzer becomes emotional while speaking to demonstrators standing in solidarity with Whole Foods workers who were fired for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks to work in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
A demonstrator wearing a face mask that honors Ginsburg stands outside the Supreme Court to protest Coney Barrett's nomination on Oct. 13.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
A Trump supporter wears a mask that says "Masking Under Protest" at a Trump campaign event featuring First Lady Melania Trump in Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 31.
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
A worker at FAO Schwarz wears a protective face mask outside the toy store in New York City on Nov. 20.