The iconic lion statues outside the New York Public Library are wearing face masks to encourage humans to do the same

(CNN) -- Count on the New York Public Library's iconic lion sculptures to set an example of patience and fortitude.

The marble statues that sit in front of the Steven A. Schwarzman Building in Manhattan's Bryant Park are now sporting their own lion-sized face masks to encourage New Yorkers to follow safety guidelines against coronavirus so their city can reopen in full.

The library mascots will wear their three-foot wide, two-foot tall masks to welcome back patrons when a few branches reopen next month. Anyone who enters one of its libraries is required to wear a mask, the New York Public Library said in a statement.

The stoic lions, called Patience and Fortitude, have guarded the grand library for over 109 years. That means they stood watch throughout the 1918 influenza pandemic, too.

New York employed many of the same safety tactics a century ago as it did when coronavirus crept in this year. A journal 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, bolstered its disease surveillance program and regulated how residents could use public spaces. Libraries were closed then, too, New York City College of Technology librarian Nora Almeida wrote in a pandemic-themed blog post for the college.

Patience and Fortitude have endured a similarly severe pandemic and guarded libraries that stayed empty for months, and the city made it through then. So maybe two marble lions aren't the worst role models for a New York public health campaign.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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