Marble statues in front of the Steven A. Schwarzman Building in Bryant Park in Manhattan now sport their own lion-sized face masks to encourage New Yorkers to follow coronavirus safety guidelines so that their city can reopen completely.
Library mascots will wear their three-foot-wide and two-foot-tall masks to welcome customers when some branches reopen next month. Anyone entering one of their libraries must wear a mask, the New York Public Library said in a statement.
Stoic lions, called Patience and Fortress, have guarded the great library for more than 109 years. That means they were also on call during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
New York employed many of the same security tactics a century ago as it did when the coronavirus swept away this year. A newspaper review of the city's public health response to that century-old pandemic reported that the city enforced what is now known as social distancing, reinforced its disease surveillance program, and regulated how residents could use public spaces . Libraries were also closed at that time, New York City School of Technology librarian Nora Almeida wrote in a blog post about the university pandemic.
Patience and fortress have suffered an equally severe pandemic and guarded libraries that remained empty for months, and the city survived at that time. So perhaps two marble lions are not the worst role models for a New York public health campaign.