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Why will no one in the White House wear a mask?

In Iowa on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence stopped at a diner named “Sally’s Restaurant” to greet people. He did not wear a mask. Later, Pence toured a Winnebago factory — again without wearing a mask.
In Washington, DC, Monday night, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were spotted having dinner on the outdoor patio of a restaurant near the White House. Neither man wore a mask.
They also come less than 24 hours after Trump asserted bizarrely that “if we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” And less than 12 hours after The New York Times first reported that Pence, on a call with governors, had insisted, contrary to established facts, that they should tell constituents that the reason for the increase in coronavirus cases was due to an increase in testing across the country.

And all of this is happening just five days from Trump’s planned return to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma — at an indoor arena that fits 19,000 people and where mask wearing is not mandatory.

It’s a remarkable disconnect.

On the one hand, Trump, his allies and his supporters seem absolutely intent on behaving as though coronavirus is something of the past, something that the United States — thanks to this President — has crushed.

“I just want to say we’ve done incredibly well,” Trump said in his remarks Tuesday afternoon. “We’re doing well. Things are happening that nobody can even believe. Our country is opening up. And it’s opening up rapidly.”

On the other, virtually every doctor, medical professional and infectious disease expert has said that mask wearing is the single best defense against a second surge of the virus as the county begins to reopen.

“Our analysis reveals that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the trends of the pandemic. This protective measure significantly reduces the number of infections. Other mitigation measures, such as social distancing implemented in the United States, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public.”

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been recommending mask-wearing when outside since last month. Here’s the guidance:

“In addition, CDC also recommends that everyone wear cloth face coverings when leaving their homes, regardless of whether they have fever or symptoms of COVID-19. This is because of evidence that people with COVID-19 can spread the disease, even when they don’t have any symptoms.”

In addition to the very clear medical guidance from experts and his own administration, there’s the fact that Trump, as president, is looked to by many Americans for guidance as to how the ongoing fight against coronavirus should be handled.

When the President, the vice president and practically everyone around them doesn’t wear masks (even when 6 feet of social distance is clearly impossible to maintain) the message is clear: Masks aren’t necessary.

When the President makes clear, as Trump has done time and time again, that he chooses not to wear a mask because he doesn’t like how it looks, that makes the message all the more powerful.
And when he mocks former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing a mask, well, I mean if anyone misses that Trump message — masks are unnecessary and for wimps — then you may need to make sure your spinal cord is still connected to your brain stem.

What’s so depressing about all of this is that mask wearing (or not) doesn’t have to be political. In fact, it shouldn’t be political.

This isn’t about partisanship. This is about public health. And whether you’re worried about getting the coronavirus isn’t the point! You wear a mask to protect other people! Especially those who are older or have pre-existing medical conditions — since we know Covid-19 is far more dangerous to them.

Winning the fight against the coronavirus requires that we all understand we’re in this together. What Trump and Pence are doing is seeking to divide us.

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