President Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox News Sunday that he would not consider issuing a nationwide mandate requiring people to wear masks to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, effectively adding fuel to the ridiculous debate on masks in the U.S.
In the interview, which aired on Sunday, Trump told host Chris Wallace that he wanted people to have “a certain freedom.” Trump was asked specifically about comments made by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, earlier this week. While speaking with the Journal of the American Medical Association, Redfield said that the outbreak in the U.S. could be controlled if everyone wore masks for the next four to eight weeks.
To no one’s surprise, Trump again discarded the opinion of his health experts, deciding to point out that early on during the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the public not to wear masks. Fauci has said that he did so because of the serious shortage of personal protective equipment and masks for health care professionals at that time. He and Adams now recommend wearing masks.
“I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask everything disappears. Hey, Dr. Fauci said don’t wear a mask. Our Surgeon General–terrific guy–said don’t wear a mask,” Trump said in the interview. “Everybody who is saying don’t wear a mask–all of sudden everybody’s got to wear a mask, and as you know masks cause problems, too.”
Trump said that he would leave the topic of masks to the governors, noting that many governors were changing their stances on masks. Despite having only recently worn one in public, the president added that he’s “a believer in masks” and that he thought they were “good.” Trump’s refusal to consider national mask mandate is likely to make anti-maskers more defiant, which sucks because it doesn’t help the country at all.
The CDC now considers masks, specifically cloth face masks, to be a critical tool in the fight against covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Face masks have unfortunately become a political issue in the U.S., with many people refusing to wear them—and throwing embarrassing fits in public places when asked to do so—because they believe wearing a mask violates their personal liberties.
“We are not defenseless against covid-19,” Redfield said this past week in a CDC press release calling on Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of covid-19. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus–particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
A recent Gallup poll found that 72% of Americans are wearing a mask “always” or “very often” when outside their homes. Only 14% never wear a mask outside the home.
In addition to encouraging Americans to wear face masks in the press release, Redfield and other CDC officials also published an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the subject. In the editorial, the CDC officials likened wearing a face mask to choosing between having surgery performed by a team not wearing some kind of covering over their mouths and noses and a team that does.
Almost all patients would reject the team without face masks, the authors said. Choosing the team that does not wear mask is absurd “because it is known that use of face coverings under these circumstances reduces the risk of surgical site infection caused by microbes generated during the surgical team’s conversations or breathing,” they stated. Face masks do the same thing in blocking transmission of the novel coronavirus.
CDC officials also described a case study in Missouri to illustrate the benefits of universal masks in preventing transmission between people who are infected with covid-19 and people who are not. In the case study, two hair stylists positive for covid-19 with symptoms continued working and attended 139 clients. The hair stylists, as well as a majority of their clients, wore face masks during their interactions with their customers. None of the stylists’ clients or secondary contacts became ill.
In order to take advantage of the protections offered by face masks, Redfield and CDC officials said that, first, public health officials and leaders need to ensure that the public understands clearly when and how to wear face coverings properly and continue to promote their effectiveness with evidence. Consistent, clear and appealing messaging is also important in order to “normalize” community masking.
As of Sunday, the U.S. had more than 3.7 million confirmed covid-19 cases and 140,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. It is still the country with the worst outbreak in the world.
Unfortunately, listening to the science and speaking clearly have never been the president’s strength, especially during the pandemic. This latest interview doesn’t indicate that he’ll be changing anytime soon. But you don’t have to be a bumbling and confused mess like Trump. Make a difference: Wear a mask.