On Monday night in Ohio, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was warming up the crowd for President Donald Trump – and trying to sell some campaign merchandise.
“I’m trying to make masks in America great again and I’ve got President Trump’s masks,” Husted, a Republican, told the audience gathered in an airplane hangar in Vandalia.
That’s when the boos from the crowd – sitting closely together and most without masks on – started. Husted, because he thought he was facing a friendly-ish crowd, went on.
“Oh, hang on now,” he said to the booers. “I’ve got President Trump’s masks in red. We’ve got one in blue.” That brought on more boos.
“We’ve even got a MAGA mask,” Husted offered. Boos.
“I know we all don’t like wearing ‘em,” said Husted, pivoting. “Hang on now, hang on. I get it.”
Then, he just gave up; “You made your point, got it,” he said.
Now think of this: The booing of Husted’s attempted hawking of Trump masks to the crowd came less than 24 hours before the United States marked 200,0000 Americans dead from Covid-19. The incongruity and disconnect on display is towering – and maddening.
There is no debate within the medical community about the efficacy of mask-wearing to slow the spread of Covid-19.
“We are not defenseless against Covid-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield back in July. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
During public testimony before Congress earlier this month, Redfield went even further. “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%,” he said. “And if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will.”
(“Immunogenicity” simply means the ability of a vaccine to create a immune response in your body and, therefore, create the necessary Covid-19 antibodies to make you immune to catching the virus.)
Trump immediately disputed Redfield’s claim.
“As far as the masks are concerned, I hope that the vaccine is going to be a lot more beneficial than the masks,” Trump said. (NOTE: Only one of these two men is a) a doctor and b) an infectious disease expert. And it’s not the President.)
Given the available data about the threat posed by Covid-19 and the demonstrated efficacy of mask-wearing in slowing the spread, it is literally unimaginable why a Republican elected official would be booed for trying to sell Trump-themed face masks at campaign rally for the President. Except that this is the reality that Trump’s statements and actions have wrought.
From the start of the virus’ emergence in the United States, Trump has, by his own admission, “downplayed” the virus to the public – even while telling Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward how transmissible and deadly Covid-19 actually was.
Trump was openly dismissive of wearing a mask from the start. Literally. In an early April press conference in which he announced the CDC’s revised guidance that masks should be worn if social distancing wasn’t possible, Trump was asked whether he would wear one.
“I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,” he responded: “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I just don’t see it.”
In May, during a visit to a Ford plant in Michigan, Trump said that he wore a mask away from reporters and cameras but took it off because he “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” (Someone did snap a photo of Trump with a mask on.)
Around that same time, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported this: “Trump, meanwhile, is out and about – masks be damned. … Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.”
By earlier this month, Trump was using former Vice President Joe Biden’s mask-wearing as a punchline at his rallies.
“But did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?” Trump asked a crowd in Pennsylvania earlier this month of Biden. “And then he makes a speech, and he always has it – not always, but a lot of times, he has it hanging down. Because, you know what, it gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist – right? I’d say, this guy’s got some big issues. Hanging down.”
What Trump has done is purposely take mask-wearing from its rightful arena as simply a public health issue (masks works to slow the spread therefore you should wear them) and turned it into a political statement (people who want to restrict your freedoms also want you to wear a mask).
Mask-wearing has, of course, nothing at all to do with politics. The coronavirus doesn’t only sicken and kill Democrats or Republicans. It spreads indiscriminately – whether you believe in it or whether you plan to vote for Trump or Biden in six weeks’ time.
That is a fact, proven by science. That some Trump supporters have taken to booing a Republican elected official for trying to sell them masks shows how far from the fact-based world they have strayed.