Monday November 30, 2020
I remember vividly the day, at the tail end of March, when facemasks suddenly became synonymous with morality: either one cared about the lives of others and donned a mask, or one was selfish and refused to do so. The shift occurred virtually overnight.
Only a day or two before, I had associated this attire solely with surgeons and people living in heavily polluted regions. Now, my friends’ favorite pastime during our weekly Zoom sessions was excoriating people for running or socializing without masks in Prospect Park. I was mystified by their certitude that bits of cloth were the only thing standing between us and mass death, particularly when mere weeks prior, the message from medical experts contradicted this new doctrine.
On February 29, the US surgeon general infamously tweeted: “Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS. . . They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.” Anthony Fauci, the best-known member of the coronavirus task force, advised Americans not to wear masks around this time. Similarly, in the earliest weeks of the pandemic, the CDC maintained that masks should be worn only by individuals who were symptomatic or caring for a sick person, a position that the WHO stood by even longer.