How did face masks become a political issue in America? | Coronavirus

It is usually a fabric with two stretch bands at both ends. You put it over your face so you can cover your mouth and nose, and it acts as a barrier to the rest of the world.

Masks are therefore very simple objects.

But in the United States, they are a huge source of controversy. While many Americans are following public health recommendations and wearing masks in public to limit the spread of Covid-19, others are passionately fighting them, saying they infringe on individual liberty.

Here’s what we know about the anti-mask movement in the United States:

What is the controversy on masks in the United States?

While polls show a majority of Americans wear masks when out in public, whether businesses and local governments should mandate mask use has become a divisive political issue. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Democrats were more likely to say they wore masks than Republicans.

This is in line with messages from leaders of both parties.

Democratic leaders have been more vocal about the importance of face masks. Many Democratic governors have made it mandatory to wear a mask in public. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said if he was in the White House he would “do everything possible to get people to wear masks in public.”

In contrast, while many Republican leaders have also spoken out about the importance of masks, other high-profile Republicans have been more hesitant to mandate masks, even as their states have begun to see waves of new cases amid reopening phases. The most obvious of these is Donald Trump himself.

And although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus, the US president has suggested that wearing a mask could be seen as a political statement against him and has mocked Biden for wearing a mask in public.

This message reached the public, who turned the masks into a “culture war”. Some businesses have posted signs telling customers that they are required not at wear masks, while retail workers elsewhere faced angry customers who refused to wear them.

When did the backlash against masks in the United States start?

What started as largely maskless protests against shutdown orders has morphed into broader anti-mask sentiment. As states have slowly begun to reopen their economies, many national chains and local businesses are requiring customers to wear face masks while in stores.

Shoppers wear face masks in the parking lot of a Walmart in Rosemead, California this month. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Thus companies, and in particular their employees, find themselves increasingly at the forefront of the debate on the mask. Stores that have been strict on masks have reported an increase in angry customers who lash out when employees try to fire them for not wearing masks. The most extreme case occurred in Flint, Michigan, where a Family Dollar store worker was shot dead on May 4 after telling a customer her daughter had to wear a face mask to enter the store. .

Why do people say they are against masks?

Many of those who refuse to wear masks say it hampers their individual freedom.

Reopen NC, a group that opposes shutdown orders in North Carolina, said masks were ‘muzzles’ which, along with things like mandatory temperature checks, were ‘means of eroding our freedom’ . The group has launched a “Burn Your Mask Challenge” where people post videos on social media of themselves burning their masks and using the hashtag “#IgniteFreedom”.

At a meeting of local leaders in Palm Beach, Florida, several people spoke publicly about why they were against masks. The reasons ranged from anger that masks “throwing God’s wondrous respiratory system out the door” to invoking a “plan-demic” conspiracy theory.

“You are suppressing our freedoms and trampling on our constitutional rights by these ordinances or laws of the communist dictatorship that you want to impose,” a woman said during the hearing.

Some experts say some of the resistance to masks may have stemmed from confusing public messages from public health officials early in the pandemic. When the virus first appeared on US shores, public health officials said masks weren’t necessary for anyone without symptoms and discouraged people from buying them.

The CDC changed course in early April, saying new research showed asymptomatic carriers were common spreaders of the virus, though some experts say the evidence for mask use was already clear. Anthony Fauci, the epidemiologist leading the US response to Covid-19, admitted that part of the reason public health officials have discouraged masks is that the US is experiencing a shortage of face masks for essential health workers.

What are public health officials now saying about masks?

Public health experts unanimously agree that masks help slow the spread of Covid-19. Both the CDC and the World Health Organization have issued recommendations for the public to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.

Although masks alone do not completely stop the spread of the virus, recent research has shown that wearing them is the most effective way to stop its transmission. Fauci, at a recent conference, said everyone should wear a mask in public and that it “shouldn’t be a political issue. It is purely a matter of public health. »

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