Although health experts say wearing face coverings is the most effective way to stop the spread of the coronavirus, imposing such a requirement has been a contentious issue in many communities.

Not in Provincetown.

That’s because of a much more deadly pandemic the town endured 40 years ago — HIV/AIDS.

In the 1980s, Provincetown responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by taking dramatic action — teams of volunteers handed out condoms to summer visitors and residents along busy Commercial Street in an effort to stop the spread of the sexually transmitted disease. Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the town has launched what it calls a mask ambassador program, where a team distributes masks and a clear message to tourists and residents: When you’re in the town’s mandatory mask zone, cover up to protect yourselves and others.

"This isn't our first pandemic," said Steve Katsurinis, chair of the town's board of health. "And you see that, I think, in the willingness of people to take extraordinary steps — or what seemed extraordinary a couple of months ago — to protect each other and to care for each other. I think it's in our DNA now."