Unmasking Politics


Graphic by: Sarah Manuel

Sarah Manuel, Staff Writer

From the tail end of March until now, many Americans have been left confused over the public health crisis of COVID-19. This has raised many questions concerning the general public’s response to such a fast-moving disease, but none more so than the novelty of wearing a face mask. To wear, or not to wear, that is the question.

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research center, Democrats and people affiliated with the Democratic party say that 92% wear masks regularly inside stores and other businesses. In comparison, the Republican party and its affiliates say only 76% wear masks in stores and other businesses. 

The change in-store practices may have to do with previous statements made by the leading disease control expert, Dr. Fauci, in early March of this year. In an interview with CBS Evening News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Norah O’Donnell, Fauci explained his reasoning behind telling the general public.

 “We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs and masks for the health providers who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of sick people.” 

Fauci also says in the same interview that he does not regret making that decision, according to Business insider, commenting on the effectiveness of homemade masks being just as effective as the ones at surgical stores,

 “In the context of when we were not strongly recommending it, it was the correct thing.”

Responding to those past comments, Fauci has since corrected allegations against him, saying that mask-wearing is effective and should be worn in public. However, according to Business Insider, Trump and his COVID-19 task force team have since cut off Fauci, proceeding forward with their own agenda.

In an interview back in late April about possible cures to the coronavirus, President Trump proposed the human ingestion of disinfecting products such as Lysol and standing outside in the sun on a hot day.

There’s been a rumor that — you know, a very nice rumor — that you go outside in the sun or you have heat, and it does have an effect on other viruses,” Trump says.

It was later refuted, saying that the ingestion of cleaning products and phototherapy is not a remedy or cure for COVID-19.

The lack of vaccines has also played a large role in the death count. As of the current update, since the beginning of October, a total of 219,000 deaths have been confirmed in the U.S alone.

Additionally, with the presidential election a mere month away, it could also be a high contributor to the increased political debate into the future of COVID-19 and mask-wearing practices in the country.

The difference in opinion can be seen with the recent presidential debate held in Cleveland, Ohio late September. President Trump and Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden were in heated debate as the topic of COVID-19 and masks became central to the immediate future of the country. 

Trump was indifferent, pulling out a mask from his coat pocket as he casually said, “you know I put a mask on when I think I need it,” turning to Biden, “I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He can be speaking 200 feet away from it and shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

What may come of Trump’s stance on the severity of the situation may be seen as a political strategy as many of his supporters still largely do not follow mask-wearing procedures. 

Biden, opposingly, responded to Trump’s comment by saying, “masks make a big difference, his own head of the CDC said that if we just wear masks between now and January, we’d save 100,000 lives.”

Since that evening, it was merely a few days later when Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus and rushed to the military medical center, Walter Reed. 

The New York Times reported, “Mr. Trump had a “high fever” on Friday, and there were two occasions when his blood oxygen levels dropped,” according to his doctors.

Two days later, on Sunday, he was seen in the passenger seat of a black S.U.V. with secret service members, wearing a mask, assuring that his recovery was going smoothly.

Dr. James P. Phillips, the chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University and an attending physician at Walter Reed, however, comments that what Trump did was dangerous, saying the chances of the service members inside the vehicle contracting COVID-19 were “as high as it gets outside of medical procedures.”

Following the release of Trump from Walter Reed, he is seen back in the public spotlight, but what also happened was his son, Baron Trump testing positive shortly after. 

David Muir, a news anchor for ABC World News Tonight, confirmed this statement, “tonight nearly 700,000 American children have been infected and the first family acknowledging that their son was one of them.”

With his son now involved in the deadly virus, Trump was subsequently asked about the health of his son.

“Baron’s fine and Amy is doing a fantastic job,” he responds, quickly changing the subject to the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett.

Not taking the time to reflect on the quick turnaround for his family’s health, Trump continues to plow through, bringing up his upcoming rally in Iowa.

“We have a big rally, a lot of people as always…and we look forward to it,” he responds to reporters unmasked standing in front of masked supporters. 

Business as usual for the President but not for other politicians involved, particularly the Democratic party.

Vice President nominee, Kamala Harris responds to Trump’s handling of the situation and alleged cover-up of the severity of COVID-19 “The President said you’re on one side of his ledger if you wear a mask, you’re on the other side of his ledger if you don’t. And in spite of all of that, today they still don’t have a plan.”

Less than a month until the fated election night and seemingly neither party seems to budge on the mask-wearing dilemma, leaving science to help determine the public choice to wear a mask or not.

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield.