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How Masks Went From Don’t-wear to Must-have

During the pandemic, public health and science haven't always aligned

Recently, Donald Trump told Fox News that he, the president, looked pretty good in a mask. Trump, it turns out, was never necessarily against wearing masks to slow the spread of the pandemic disease COVID-19, despite multiple statements to that effect. No, no. “People have seen me wear one,” Trump said. “It was a dark black mask, and I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger.” (The Lone Ranger’s mask covered his eyes; masks to prevent the spread of a virus should cover the nose and mouth.)

This statement was the culmination of a massive shift in messaging—and in science. In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and even WIRED warned people against using masks. They wouldn’t protect people against getting the disease, all those organizations said, and supplies looked short for the personal protective equipment that healthcare workers were going to need when the pandemic got bad.

What a short, strange trip it’s been. The disease has been in the United States for half a year, and in that time face coverings went from being discouraged by the world’s top public health officials to being encouraged by them—and from being opposed by U.S. political leaders affiliated with the president to being accepted, if not demanded. Even the staunchest conservative political leaders now recommend that people wear masks in most public places and wherever maintaining a discrete 6 feet of social distance isn’t possible. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Dick Cheney—not exactly avatars of the progressive left—have both made pro-mask statements. After months of opposition, even conservative opinion-haver Sean Hannity has joined the mask-wearing cause.

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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