Like many other issues in the United States, the question of whether or not to wear a mask to slow the spread of the coronavirus has officially turned into a raging partisan debate. While one half of the country follows scientific advice to wear a mask in public settings, the other half considers masks a symbol of fearmongering, and not wearing one a statement of personal freedom. President Trump himself has so far refused wearing a mask. "Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don't see it," Trump replied last month when asked whether he would start masking up in public.
Initially deemed ineffective in preventing infection with the novel coronavirus, the scientific consensus on the effectiveness of masks has shifted over the past two months. While it’s still believed to be inadequate in protecting the wearer of the mask from contracting the virus, it has shown to be highly effective in preventing asymptomatic carriers of the virus from unknowingly passing it on. Since studies have shown that a significant portion of COVID-19 patients don’t develop any symptoms, earlier recommendations of only wearing masks when feeling sick have been updated accordingly. The CDC now recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”
Regardless of the debate raging on social media and off it, many Americans have started wearing a mask in recent weeks. According to survey data from Statista’s COVID-19 Barometer, 66 percent of Americans said they’d wear a mask in public in the week ended May 31. That’s up from 39 percent in early April, indicating that the CDC’s recommendation is bearing fruit. Regardless of the positive trend, several states have decided to make wearing a mask mandatory in certain settings as coronavirus cases are trending upward again.