Picture Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, testified today at a congressional hearing where he said that masks are “the most important, powerful public health tool we have” against COVID-19 infection. He explained that proper mask wearing can nearly guarantee protection against infection, whereas the COVID-19 vaccine, if and when it is available, may only provide 70% immunity. He also said that the vaccine would not likely be available to the general population until the second to third quarter of 2021, which is in the middle of next year.
President Donald Trump refuted Dr. Redfield’s statements about masks and the timing of a vaccine. “Maybe he misunderstood it. As far as the masks are concerned, I hope that the vaccine is going to be a lot more beneficial than the masks,” President Trump told reporters.
Although President Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said that the President supports mask-wearing, President Trump has been seen at rallies and other public events without himself or his audiences wearing masks.
In other countries, there is not much debate. Many European countries including the UK and France have made it the law to wear masks in public. Most Asian countries also require masks in public. However, in the U.S., the laws regarding masks depend on the state or county where you live. Americans are divided in whether the mask is useful in protecting against infection and whether it does more harm than good. Americans are also divided based on politics — some Americans believe it is a matter of individual liberty to wear or not wear a mask. Other Americans believe it is a matter of public health.
At my school in California, all children in third grade up to eighth grade must wear a mask because that is required by our local law. At my dance studio however, it is recommended but not required that students wear a mask. Some parents require their children to wear one, and other parents believe it is safer for their children not to wear a mask when dancing. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believes that if Americans wear masks consistently, thousands of lives could be saved. Time will tell whether wearing masks will have made the difference. And hopefully a vaccine comes out this year or next year.