July 11, 2020


Despite the now universal medical advice that, during this time of pandemic, people should wear masks in public to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, many people refuse to do so. Masking has unfortunately become a political issue. People eschew masks as effete or as a concession to a science in which they have no faith or in recognition of Donald Trump’s assertion that the pandemic is some kind of liberal plot. To my knowledge, no one has so far been killed in arguments over mask-wearing, but that may well happen before the pandemic subsides.

The militantly unmasked are doubtless inspired by the actions of the president. Donald Trump has consistently dismissed the viral threat despite the 135,000 deaths in the U.S. that have been caused by it. He has made a point of not wearing a mask, even in situations in which doing so has seemed particularly urgent. Today, for the first time, he unabashedly wore a mask publicly in a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. One suspects that the hospital staff was insistent on mask usage to protect its patients. The president has not suggested that he has changed his mind regarding masks, however, and today’s mask usage is probably a one-off event.

I believe that the zealous opposition to mask-wearing could largely be extinguished if the president would simply proclaim that he will wear a mask whenever he is interacting with others and that he urges everyone to follow his lead in order to decrease the spread of disease.

Why is Mr. Trump so reluctant to take this simple action? Why is he willing to contribute to already appalling death toll by failing to do the obvious?

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