On Friday, writing for The Washington Post, former George W. Bush White House official Karen Hughes laid into Republicans who have treated face masks as a political issue.
"I live in Austin, where our state pushed to reopen absent clear communication and guidelines about the concerted individual and collective actions that would be essential to reopening safely," wrote Hughes. "When leaders said 'We are open for business,' too many citizens heard 'Life is back to normal.' Although some Republicans are now speaking up, for weeks there were mixed or no messages about everyone’s personal responsibility to don a mask in public." As a result, Texas is seeing an explosion of cases, and Gov. Greg Abbott has had to issue a statewide mask order.
"With some infected individuals, the coronavirus can lurk undetected, for days or weeks, without any sign or symptom that they are carriers," wrote Hughes. "Wearing a mask is not about protecting you; it protects others from the possibility that you are exhaling virus particles at them. A recent University of Washington study projected that 33,000 fewer people will die by October if 95 percent of us wear masks in public."
"That is reason to label failure to wear a mask as what it really is: an incredibly selfish act that puts other people’s lives at risk," continued Hughes. "Like yelling 'fire!' in a packed theater or brandishing a loaded gun in a crowd, failing to don a mask greatly increases the risk that one person will endanger others. Wearing a mask is also an important reminder that life is not normal and that a deadly disease stalks our society and we all need to take other precautions, including social distancing, regular hand-washing and minimal face-touching."
Much of the polarization on masks was fueled by President Donald Trump, who for weeks refused to wear one in public. Only this week did he reverse course and tell advisers he now likes the way he looks in a mask.
"While wearing a mask is not a political issue, it is a moral one," concluded Hughes. "The choice and stakes are clear: the minor inconvenience of donning a mask vs. potentially threatening other people’s lives. The options are not equal on any scale of duty, honor, citizenship, or service to God and others. Amid a deadly viral pandemic, wearing a mask is the only responsible course of action."
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