clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why face masks became political in the US

How America screwed up its messaging on masks.

The message from public health experts is clear: Wearing a mask can help stop the spread of the coronavirus. But that message hasn’t completely gotten through; many Americans still simply don’t believe it.

It’s a major failure of communication, one that has very likely cost lives.

But the US government actually had a plan to prevent almost this exact situation from happening: a written set of rules about communicating in a public health crisis, including guidelines on how to make sure public health information doesn’t get mixed up with politics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication guide was created after lessons learned from the 2001 anthrax attacks, where there wasn’t a clear spokesperson for public health information. It was used and refined during the H1N1 swine flu and Ebola outbreaks.

But then, when the biggest health crisis in a century arrived, the administration ignored it completely.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

New goal: 25,000

In the spring, we launched a program asking readers for financial contributions to help keep Vox free for everyone, and last week, we set a goal of reaching 20,000 contributors. Well, you helped us blow past that. Today, we are extending that goal to 25,000. Millions turn to Vox each month to understand an increasingly chaotic world — from what is happening with the USPS to the coronavirus crisis to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work — and helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world. Contribute today from as little as $3.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.