Suggesting That Face Masks Are More Effective Than Vaccines, the CDC’s Director Exemplifies the Propaganda That Discourages People From Wearing Them
In congressional testimony yesterday, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emphasized the value of face masks in preventing transmission of COVID-19. “These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have,” he told a Senate subcommittee while holding a cloth mask. “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.”
As The New York Times notes, Donald Trump is notably less enthusiastic about face masks. Redfield “made a mistake” when he said masks provide better protection than vaccines, the president told reporters yesterday. While masks “may be effective,” he said, a “vaccine is much more effective.”
The Times presents that contrast as another example of the president’s resistance to expert advice in dealing with COVID-19. “Trump Scorns His Own Scientists Over Virus Data,” says the headline. But the truth is more complicated. Redfield, whose agency initially dismissed the value of face masks worn by the general public, is now erring in the opposite direction by exaggerating the strength of the evidence in favor of that practice. While I believe the evidence is sufficient to conclude that face masks are a reasonable precaution in indoor public places, the case is not as iron-clad as Redfield implies.
Trump’s ambivalence about masks is reflected in the mixed messages he has been sending for months.
In a July 20 tweet, Trump called wearing a face mask in public “a patriotic duty.” He amplified that message at a press briefing the next day. “We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” he said. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They’ll have an effect. And we need everything we can get.”
More recently, Trump has expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of face masks. “The concept of a mask is good,” he said during an ABC-sponsored Q&A with undecided voters on Tuesday night, “But it also does—you’re constantly touching it. You’re touching your face. You’re touching plates. There are people that don’t think masks are good.”
That objection to masks, like the concern that people will not wear them properly, does not address the basic question of how we know that masks, when used correctly, help prevent virus transmission. Nor does it address Redfield’s claim about the relative effectiveness of masks vs. vaccines.
In late Jun
Article from Latest – Reason.com