There’s No Debate: Masks Save Lives
The UCSF Chair of Medicine says there’s no debate: Masks are a simple and effective strategy to save lives
One of the amazing parts of the Covid-19 crisis has been seeing new issues crop up constantly: the (largely false) dichotomy between health and the economy, the accuracy of the death count, antibody testing, the effectiveness of various medications (and, yes, bleach). The list goes on.
In the past couple of weeks, the issue of face masks has become a hot topic. Masks are simple things, and yet they have become the subject of a lot of confusion and debate: Do they really work? Where and when are they most effective? Should they be required? How can we get people to wear them?
Witnessing these questions emerge has inspired what follows: a review of the science and the politics of masks in Covid-19.
How masks became a hot button issue
Like many issues in the Covid era, the question of whether to mask has exposed many fault lines in American life. Do you trust facts or feelings? Do you protect yourself first, or protect others? What is the proper balance between state power and individual liberty? Should there be separate rules for the powerful versus the rest of us? And mask mania amps up the volume by adding another ingredient to the mix: personal vanity.
Not surprising, then, that masks are now a sizzling, hot-button issue. One vivid illustration of this was watching senators at the Fauci hearing on May 12 make clearly partisan statements by wearing, or not wearing, masks.
The mask debate escalated with Vice President Mike Pence’s open-faced visit to the Mayo Clinic, where he was surrounded by doctors, patients, and even his own staffers, all of whom were masked.
President Donald Trump stubbornly refuses to wear a mask. When he himself announced new CDC guidelines in early April, he raised doubt that he would follow his own suggestion. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,” he said. “Wearing a face mask as I greet…