The New York Public Library’s beloved lion sculptures have stood watch in the city during countless historic moments, including the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak. Now, they’re offering some helpful guidance for the current coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time in 109 years, the two lion statues will wear face masks.

The 3-foot wide and 2-foot tall face coverings are meant to set an example for New Yorkers, reminding them to stay safe and follow public health advice to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the library said in a press release Monday.

New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx said the lions, named Patience and Fortitude, are symbolic reminders of New York’s resilience:

“Like them, New Yorkers are strong and resilient and can weather any storm. We will get to the other side of this public health crisis together. But to do so, we must remain vigilant, we must have patience and fortitude, and we must follow what experts tell us, especially as we continue to reopen our cities. The lions, protectors of knowledge and truth who have seen 109 years worth of history, are setting that example.”

With New York City scheduled to move to Phase 3 of its reopening plan, the library system is preparing to reopen a limited number of branches for grab-and-go services starting July 13. And as Patience and Fortitude gently remind patrons: Masks will be mandatory for anyone entering a branch or picking up and dropping off materials.

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