Opinion Mask Photo

An N95 mask hangs from the rear-view mirror of a car on July 27, 2020, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in both the state of Georgia and across the country, the validity of masks as a preventative measure has become a partisan battle. This notion is extremely ridiculous. If public health officials have stated that mask wearing can potentially limit the spread of the virus and save lives, then there should be no debate; however, the politicization of masks continues to endanger the lives of the American people.

President Donald Trump and other politicians have fueled this division by engaging in a political tug of war over masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear face coverings in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially in places where social distancing measures can be difficult to maintain. The use of face coverings help stop respiratory droplets that are projected when a person coughs or sneezes from coming in contact with other people. Wearing a mask is a minor sacrifice for the greater good in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. It has nothing to do with politics.

Georgia was one of the first states to reopen. Governor Brain Kemp has ignored calls to mandate the use of face coverings in public. After COVID-19 cases began to rise again in Georgia, the city of Savannah chose to mandate masks followed by other cities, including Athens. However, on the same day that the president visited Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order banning cities and counties from mandating face coverings. Kemp went as far as to sue the mayor and city council of Atlanta for issuing a mask mandate and requested an injunction to “restrain” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from writing press releases or making statements to the press that she can make more or less restrictive measures than Kemp.

Kemp continues to strongly urge Georgians to wear masks, but he has said a mask mandate is “unenforceable.”

Kemp seems to value his political image more than they value the lives of the people that he is supposed to serve.

Kemp may believe that a mask mandate is not worth the sacrifice, but he is in the minority because more than 30 states have chosen to mandate masks.

Trump also values his own political agenda over the lives of the American people, even as he seemingly displayed a change of heart. On July 20, Trump tweeted that wearing masks is “patriotic,” seemingly encouraging his followers to wear masks when they go out in public. However, Trump was seen without a mask only hours after his tweet.

Despite a previous dismissive attitude, the president has recently acknowledged the severity of the pandemic in the United States and also encouraged mask wearing. Yet this shift came only after his handling of the pandemic had fallen to a 38% approval rating, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll that was released on July 19.

Mask wearing and mask mandates are not only a point of contention amongst politicians but also among the American people.

Some people believe that mask mandates infringe on their civil liberties and personal freedoms and that the facts about the pandemic are sensationalized, even as over 4 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States.

Among the American people, mask wearing ideology is divided along political lines. According to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 89% of Democrats are in favor of wearing masks in public all the time compared to 58% of Republicans. The poll was conducted before Trump called mask-wearing “patriotic.” The lower support among Republicans is in part a reflection of the president's previous resistance to wearing masks.

The politicization of the pandemic and mask wearing is undermining the fight against COVID-19. Mask wearing is not a sign of weakness or disobeying your political ideologies. It is simply a way to limit the spread of the virus that has already claimed the lives of over 148,000 Americans.

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