Opinion | Just wear the mask — even you, Trump

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Shruti Talekar | Staff Illustrator

By Julia Kreutzer, Senior Staff Columnist

Trump announced last week that the CDC and the White House COVID-19 Task Force have begun to urge Americans to wear non-medical cloth face coverings when in public — although he doesn’t seem to be heeding his own advice.

At a news conference on Friday, April 3, Trump said, “I’m feeling good. I just don’t want to be doing — somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great resolute desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. I just don’t. Maybe I’ll change my mind.”

Whether we’re greeting dictators, kings and queens or simply making a trip to Trader Joe’s, we should be following all of the CDC guidelines. Staying 6 or more feet apart, only leaving your home when necessary and wearing a mask are not enjoyable practices, but they are a lot more enjoyable than getting yourself or someone you love sick.

While we should have been practicing social distancing for several weeks by now, the CDC’s recommendation to implement the use of face masks as well is a change in tune. Until Friday, the CDC stated that only individuals showing symptoms need to use masks

Since homemade masks are not as effective as N95 and other medical masks, they feared mass panic would prompt the public to hoard these items that are already in dangerously short supply in hospitals and other health care centers. U.S. Surgeon Gen. Dr. Jerome Adams had gone as far as to instruct the general public against wearing masks altogether.

 “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” Adams tweeted. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” 

Now Adams and the rest of the task force have backtracked. During the press conference, he conceded that the recommendations had been “confusing to the American people” but their understanding had evolved, prompting a change in guidelines. Our actions must evolve with them.

Because we now understand that as many as 25% of cases are asymptomatic but still highly transmissible, it is irresponsible to suggest that only those with symptoms wear masks to stop the spread. So please, leave the N95 masks for the workers on the frontlines, but keep yourself and everyone around you safer by making and wearing a homemade cloth mask — like this one

It is becoming clearer that no one is invincible, meaning that not wearing a mask or following other regulations to stop the spread is not only dangerous to yourself but incredibly selfish.

But blatant selfishness is nothing new for the president. During the impeachment hearings on Jan. 24, House Impeachment Manager Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., remarked that this is a pillar of his track record.

“You can’t trust this president will do what’s right for this country. He will do what’s right for Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first.”

If Trump’s response to the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that Schiff is right. We can’t count on him to keep us safe, apparently if it comes at the cost of his appearance in particular. 

We don’t have to follow our president’s idiotic egocentrism, though. Luckily, it seems most Americans are not. 

Sure, in mid-March we had a swarm of spring breakers flooding beaches and bars who notoriously refused to let coronavirus “stop [them] from partying.” But in a March 29 poll from the Washington Post and ABC News, 93% of respondents reported they are “maintaining distance from other people,” 91% are “staying home as much as possible” and 88% have stopped going to bars and restaurants. 

The data suggests this is working. Cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle, which were hit early and aggressively with the pandemic, have seen a fall in the average day-over-day case increases. While the impact of the pandemic will inevitably be devastating, it can result in significantly less deaths than if we adhere by guidelines.

A lot is being asked of us right now — well, actually, for many of us, it’s less of an “ask” and more of a mandate. While these guidelines are at best, unenjoyable and at worst, devastating, we all have to do our part. I don’t care if you spend this time creating a podcast, writing the next New York Times best seller or simply watching “Tiger King” on Netflix. Spend your time at home however you want to — just don’t leave it, especially without a mask. 

Wearing a mask while running essential errands may not be particularly glamorous and may even be outright uncomfortable, but it is now another critical element of our defense plan. It sucks, but most Americans are simply sucking it up. I hope the rest of us, including our commander in chief, follow suit. 

Write to Julia at [email protected]

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