In the early months of the COVID-19 epidemic when the New York metropolitan region and California were its center, health leaders where unsure of the best way to respond. The disease was new. Should masks be worn or were they unnecessary?
In the hard hit areas wearing masks became common place, if not universal. While in relatively unaffected areas, the masks became an annoyance, with little purpose. And in these hyper-partisan times, wearing a mask became a Democratic thing and not wearing one, a Republican thing.
But as the epidemic spread across the country into more Republican areas the notion that wearing a mask was unnecessary had become ingrained.
According to polls, the majority of Americans say they are wearing masks. Though Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are wearing them. Americans are even more divided over whether businesses and local governments should mandate their usage.
Many Americans in the anti-mask camp feel that the practice violates their fundamental freedoms. One particularly vocal woman from Florida condemned the masks by saying, “You’re removing our freedoms and stomping on our constitutional rights by these communist dictatorship orders or laws you want to mandate.”
Some experts think frustration with masks is rooted in those early days public health officials didn’t know what was best. The result is in areas where face covering and social distancing is not widely practiced, infection numbers are climbing dramatically.