Face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

Photo taken at Milpitas station in Milpitas California in June 2020 that shows subway patrons following public CDC face mask regulations

The wearing of non-medical face masks in public to lessen transmission of COVID-19 in the United States was first recommended by the CDC on April 3, 2020 as supplemental to hygiene and appropriate social distancing. Over the course of the pandemic, various states, counties, and municipalities have issued health orders requiring the wearing of non-medical face coverings — such as cloth masks — in spaces and/or businesses accessible to the public, especially when physical distancing is not possible. Some areas only mandated their use by public-facing employees of businesses, although these narrower orders have since been superseded in multiple states by a general mandate.

Federal officials initially discouraged the general public from wearing masks for protecting themselves from COVID-19.[1] In early April, federal officials reversed their guidance, saying that the general public should wear masks to lessen transmission by themselves, particularly from asymptomatic carriers.[2] Public health experts such as Larry Gostin stated that federal officials should have recommended mask-wearing sooner;[2] others noted that US government guidance lagged significantly behind mask recommendations in East Asian countries and likely exacerbated the scale of the pandemic in the United States.[3] In September 2020, it was reported that the government had contemplated leveraging the United States Postal Service to distribute free reusable masks nationwide as early as April, but that it had scrapped the plan due to concerns it could "create concern or panic".[4]

Mask mandates were divisive. Republican-led states were, initially, less likely to impose health orders requiring the wearing of masks than Democratic-led states. Several states, including Arizona, Georgia, and Texas, took actions to block localized health orders requiring masks, but later softened their stances to help control local spikes.[5] Some Americans felt mask mandates to be an infringement of their personal liberties,[6][7] According to a Pew Research survey conducted in fall 2020, 19% of Republican respondents listed masks as a pandemic-related hardship, 27% of whom were skeptical about masks or the severity of the pandemic, compared with 10% of Democrats, 31% of whom expressed anxieties about the politicization of safety regulations and others who were not taking the pandemic seriously.[8]

Former president Donald Trump largely resisted wearing masks in public media appearances,[9][10][11] and did not mandate their use at his rallies and other public 2020 campaign events.[12][13] After briefly encouraging their use in mid-July,[14][15] Trump continued to hold campaign events (such as the 2020 Republican National Convention) where masks were not widely used.[16][17][18] Trump mocked and ridiculed Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election and successor as president, for wearing face masks in public appearances.[19][20][16] Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and others criticized Trump's refusal, calling it dangerous and irresponsible.[21][22][23] A lack of precautions (such as masks) taken during crowded White House ceremonies and receptions by Trump on September 26 were credited with having possibly resulted in a COVID-19 outbreak at the White House, which included Trump himself.

  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference :32 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference NPRMasks2 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  3. ^ Pike, Lili (May 29, 2020). "Why 15 US states suddenly made masks mandatory". Vox.
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference :65 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ Weiner, Rachel (July 10, 2020). "Republican governors who opposed mask mandates start to soften". Washington Post. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  6. ^ Cite error: The named reference politico.com was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ and attitudes have varied along the political spectrum. Samuels, Alex (May 22, 2020). "For some, forgoing masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic has become a political statement". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  8. ^ "Both Republicans and Democrats cite masks as a negative effect of COVID-19, but for very different reasons".
  9. ^ Cite error: The named reference :24 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  10. ^ Cite error: The named reference :25 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ Cite error: The named reference :26 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  12. ^ Cite error: The named reference :27 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  13. ^ Cite error: The named reference :28 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  14. ^ Cite error: The named reference :58 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  15. ^ Cite error: The named reference :59 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  16. ^ a b LeBlanc, Paul. "Trump mocks Biden for wearing mask: 'Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?'". CNN. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  17. ^ "Trump leans into his '180,000 deaths is a statistic' reelection strategy". Washington Post. August 31, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  18. ^ Restuccia, Andrew (August 28, 2020). "Trump's White House Rally: Takeaways From the RNC's Final Night". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  19. ^ Cite error: The named reference :16 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  20. ^ Cite error: The named reference CBSMock was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  21. ^ Veronica Stracqualursi; Paul LeBlanc. "Michigan attorney general warns Ford over letting Trump go maskless". CNN. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  22. ^ "COVID-19 death toll keeps rising — and the media should hold Trump accountable". Salon. June 23, 2020. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  23. ^ Cite error: The named reference :35 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

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