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Bhushan Sethi, 47, lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and runs around Central Park, either the loop or the reservoir, daily. He is a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and this ritual is his “me” time. “It’s my way of processing some stuff and preparing for the day,” he said.

As the park has grown more crowded during the pandemic, Mr. Sethi guesses he is running past clients, colleagues and friends he knows. But his mask helps him stay in the zone without worrying too much about who is around him. “You don’t look for people now,” he said. “There just aren’t as many casual collisions.”

Not that Mr. Sethi is some kind of misanthrope. “I am very proud of watching all these people wearing masks,” he said.

Some people, however, dislike being overlooked, and so they are wearing “signature” masks, in bold prints like leopard or gingham — or, more radically, changing their hair color.

Kendra Vanderwerf, 34, runs a hair salon in her home in Ontario, Canada. With her striking red hair and five-foot height, clients come up to her regularly, even when she’s wearing her mask. “People recognize me as the tiny thing wandering around with bright hair,” she said. Her husband, David Vanderwerf, 40, a teacher, offers another distinguishing characteristic: He walks with a cane.

But she doesn’t have the same clues to identify others. “I am waiting in the conversation for them to drop a hint to who they are,” she said. “I don’t want to be mean and say, ‘I can’t recognize you with your mask on,’ even though I can’t.” She has occasionally had to ask leading questions about work and their families to gather more information.



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