Of all the issues dividing Americans right now, it seems ridiculous that the question of whether to wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be one of them.
Unfortunately, it has become yet another flashpoint, with most opinions falling along the usual political divide — the left expects unquestioned obedience to government dictates on mask requirements, while the right is suspicious of the virtue signaling and government overreach that comes with it.
The problem is compounded by the fact that two top health organizations disagree on the efficacy or even the safety of healthy people wearing masks.
In a video posted to YouTube in March titled, “When and how to wear medical masks to protect against the new coronavirus?” Dr. April Baller, a medical officer at WHO, explained why healthy people are discouraged from wearing them.
“If you do not have any respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough or runny nose, you do not need to wear a medical mask like this one,” Baller said in the clip while holding up a disposable mask.
“Masks alone can give you a false feeling of protection and can even be a source of infection when not used correctly,” she continued. “Masks should only be used by health care workers, caretakers or by people who are sick with symptoms like fever and cough.
“Why? Because health care workers and caretakers are in close contact with ill individuals, so they are at higher risk of catching COVID-19, and sick people should wear masks to protect others from small droplets that can come out when they cough or sneeze.”
She demonstrated how to safely fit and then remove a mask before saying, “Remember, the best way to protect yourself from the new coronavirus is frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, does not agree.
In fact, its advice has been contradictory (it must be quite the conundrum for leftists who revere the globalist WHO but also love American big government).
By early April, the CDC had changed course and recommended individuals wear masks in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain” in geographic areas where the virus was especially widespread.
Even the surgeon general initially made the case against medical face masks before the trend had turned.
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams tweeted Feb. 29, the same day the United States recorded its first coronavirus death.
“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” he tweeted.
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
The argument from Adams made little sense as masks supposedly were ineffective for the general public but should be reserved for health care workers who needed them.
This contradiction was one repeated by other officials, including members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force who offered the same recommendation and cited the same concerns.
Fauci said he worried about people “fiddling with the mask” and increasing their risk of infection by touching their faces more.
“It could lead to a shortage of masks for the people who really need it,” he also said.
Dr. William Schaffner, past president and current medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, speculated that the reason the WHO did not recommend masks is because they are not universally available around the world, according to ABC News.
Schaffner also said officials were worried that the general public purchasing masks would create a shortage for medical personnel.
“A lot of public health is how can we take the theory and the science and bring it down to the average person,” Schaffner told ABC News. “Public health has to be practical. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.”
At the very least, these concerns and the disagreement between the two behemoth health policy organizations not only caused confusion for the public but also meant that advocates for mask requirements might not have necessarily relied only on science.
If recommendations were only evidence-based, potential shortages would have no bearing on their public protocol.
Furthermore, it makes draconian government edicts especially suspect in places such as California, which required masks even outdoors at the beach, and Philadelphia, where police punished offenders, just to name two examples.
Retail outlets such as Costco have also made masks mandatory, going as far as ejecting customers who don’t comply, according to USA Today.
It seems rational, then, to wonder if strict mask requirements are not more about public conformity than about health and safety when the so-called experts can’t agree.
In a sane world, a mask would simply be a mask and anyone who thought it prudent to do so would wear one — or not, as personal freedom allows.
Instead, what we have is psychological warfare, where the decision to wear a mask or not becomes a matter of government control and social pressure, even when the experts themselves cannot agree on whether it is even necessary.
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