Have you noticed how the face mask in the age of COVID-19 has become quite the political symbol?
On one side you have those who believe anyone who doesn’t wear a mask at all times in public is an irresponsible public health threat and doesn’t care about whether people live or die. On the other, we have those refusing to even consider wearing a mask as a protest against Big Brother and government control.
Mixed in with all of this, we have the virtue signaling and it goes both ways. Some make sure they wear a mask well beyond CDC guidelines seemingly to shame their political opponents who appear in public without them. On the other side, some refuse to ever wear masks as a matter of principle, to demonstrate their independence. “Don’t Tread on Me” COVID style.
And then in the middle, we have folks who wear them according to the proper guidelines: “Yes” when in crowded settings where 6 foot distancing is not always possible and “no” when it is.
But how did the face mask turn into such a flashpoint? Consider some of these curious examples.
MSNBC’s Katy Tur and her reporter do a national news report on people not wearing masks. But it turns out half their own location crew is mask-less even as they’re shaming an innocent bystander for not wearing one.
A man at a Publix grocery story in Florida goes on an obscenity-laced rant about his constitutional rights being violated when told to wear a mask upon entry. (Note: the U.S. Constitution is mum on the question.)
CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins wears a mask during the White House press conference while properly social distanced, but is caught removing it as soon as the presser is over. She then walks mask-less into the personal space of her fellow reporters.
Is it presidential to wear a mask or not?
The Washington Post says President Trump chose to not a wear a mask while visiting a Ford plant in Michigan as a way of “Sticking it to the media.” But NBC News reported that on that same tour, the president did wear a face mask embossed with the Presidential Seal and he jokingly explained, “I think I look better in the mask.”
President Trump retweeted (without comment) Brit Hume’s jab at Joe Biden for wearing a mask.
In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Biden shot back at the slight calling Trump “a fool, an absolute fool” and charging that the President not wearing a mask is “costing people’s lives” even though the President is tested for the virus every day.
Politico reported that the disagreements on mask use exist even within the First Family.
Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump occasionally like to send subtle hints when they differ with the president. Sure enough, soon after Trump said he wouldn’t be wearing a mask, both Melania and Ivanka posted pictures of themselves on social media promoting the virtues of covering your face.
The First Lady has been a clear advocate for social distancing and face masks.
Here is a surprisingly good interview with Politico’s chief political reporter Ryan Lizza on the politicization of face coverings. He offers a thoughtful summary of views on both the Left and Right, admitting legitimacy in both perspectives.
It is worth noting for clarity in this debate that the President and Vice President are tested daily for COVID-19 infection and so technically, wearing a mask is not essential according to current health standards. They are not being careless. The CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Surgeon General say to wear masks so that we do not infect others. Thus, the only functional reason for the President and Vice President wearing masks would be to set an example to others or to obey local directives as existed in the Ford Plant that Trump visited in Michigan on May 21.
Focus on the Family recommends the use of facial coverings in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and the Surgeon General of the United States. Our explanation and recommendation for families can be found here.
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