Our mission to help you navigate the new normal is being driven by subscribers. Subscribe today to get unlimited access to our journalism.
Forgive the American people when they are in the fog of face masks. President Donald Trump and the federal government have made a number of them.
First there was the do-it-it phase. Then the nice, but not for me dissonance. Followed by local rules, there are no exceptions. Rounded off by Trumps, suspicions stated that some people wear masks just to troll him.
Everything has led to a dark message about one of the crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. And the politicization of the debate about wearing or not wearing is evident in the latest public surveys.
To put it bluntly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people wear cloth face cloths in public places where other social distance measures are difficult to maintain. Some states and communities require it.
The separation of the Washington news was only evident on Friday, however, when Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump's decision to hold two large scarce mask gatherings last week in countries with high levels of infection and, in one case, local regulations requiring masks.
"We just believe that the most important thing here is that people listen to leadership in their state and leadership in their community and adhere to these guidelines, whether it's face coverings or the size of gatherings "Said Pence.
Vice President Mike Pence wears a face mask when he arrives for Senate Republican lunch in the Hart Senate office building on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Bill Clark – CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
The government's message without a mask was clear early on. As the first known COVID-19 infections were found on US soil, senior public health officials insisted that masks be reserved for front workers.
The CDC later issued its recommendation for fabric face coverings in public facilities where other social distancing measures were difficult to maintain. But Trump immediately undermined this guidance by plainly declaring that he would not follow it.
He told the Wall Street Journal this month that some people wear masks just to show that they disapprove of him.
Now the mask debate is heating up in the south and west, where infections are rising to levels that the country has not seen since April, when the northeast and midwest were particularly affected.
In Arizona, Florida, and Texas, with GOP governors and enormous infection spikes, people were reluctant to oblige people to wear masks in public places.
But in California, Nevada, and North Carolina – with democratic governors and rising infection rates – rules that require masks came into force last week.
The mask gap is strong even in the Republican Sun Belt states, where some of the city's democratic mayors have imposed their own mask rules.
Another complication of messaging is that, when Trump questioned the efficacy of masks and refused to wear one in public, General Surgeon Jerome Adams said on Twitter: “I show my patriotism by doing one in public Wear face covering! "
That would be the same general surgeon who tweeted on February 29: "Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS! They do NOT effectively prevent the general public from getting #Coronavirus. However, if healthcare providers cannot get them to care for sick patients, they and our communities are at risk! "
Facial mask tremors have unsettled public health experts as studies indicate that the covers could have a dramatic impact on limiting the death toll of the virus.
"I think the public health community has made it very clear that face masks can help reduce the spread of the virus," said Ayaz Hyder, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University. "The problem is that you send mixed messages when the person at the top of the federal government says," No, I'm fine. "
The political calculations of the debate take place across the country and are evident in public surveys.
While most other protections, such as social distancing, receive broad support from both parties, Democrats say more than Republicans say they wear a mask when leaving the house [76% to 59%], according to a recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center Public Affairs Research.
In Texas, GOP governor Greg Abbott issued an implementing regulation earlier this month that prohibited local authorities from imposing fines or criminal penalties on people who refuse to wear masks. However, he has not spoken out against the efforts of some Texas cities and counties to require companies to impose facial mask rules on their employees.
In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey, mayor, not the state, said they would set their own mask mandates. Richard Mack, president of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, said at an anti-mask rally in Scottsdale last week that mask mandates are overwhelmed by the government and will not be enforced.
"We have a pandemic in America and Arizona," said Mack. "But it is not the corona virus. The pandemic is one of the general corruption, the pandemic is one of the destruction of our constitution.
In Florida, where nearly 9,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis refused Democrats' requests for a nationwide mask order, saying, "Honey can catch more flies than vinegar."
On Friday, Bruce Owens, 66, of Lakeland, Florida, was wearing a white surgical mask as he walked downtown St. Petersburg. He said he was disappointed with the different responses by Florida elected officials to the outbreak.
In Lakeland, officials chose a face mask mandate, while the mayor of Greater St. Petersburg signed an ordinance on Monday that required masks in public places.
"You handled it extremely badly," Owens said of state officials. "You didn't really listen to the experts."
Groveland, Florida’s Charles Kyle Durr said he would wear a mask if necessary, but questioned the need for a full government mandate. "I don't think everyone has to wear a mask," Durr wrote to the AP. "Only a person with Covid symptoms or someone diagnosed with Covid needs to wear a mask."
The alleged democratic candidate Joe Biden strives to turn face masks into an election campaign topic. He told a Pittsburgh television station that he would "do everything possible" to oblige Americans to wear face masks in public environments where social distance cannot be maintained.
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh replied that "people should follow the CDC guidelines."
But on Tuesday, Trump was in Phoenix for a Students for Trump event in a mega-church where only a few participants wore masks. The President declined to wear one, although the Democratic Mayor asked him to.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading infectious disease expert, appeared before a House committee the same day and was asked about Trump's refusal to wear a mask.
Fauci avoided targeting the president directly, but said he was wearing a mask personally, "not only because I want to protect others and protect myself, but also to set an example."
On Friday, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force again urged Americans to practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently, and wear facewear in public places.
But Pence avoided questions as to whether the President's refusal to wear a mask and his major campaign meetings sent conflicting messages.
"Even in a health crisis, the American people don't lose our constitutional rights," said Pence.
More Corona virus coverage from capital::
- Why black owned companies were hit hardest by the pandemic
- This was the most out of print product on websites in May
- George Floyd protests that coronavirus face masks face challenges
- The continuing history of health inequalities for black Americans
- Reading e-books is booming during the coronavirus pandemic