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Pavlich: The government’s mask fiasco

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When it became clear coronavirus had made its way to the United States in late January and was likely to spread around the country, many Americans purchased masks as a way to protect themselves from the disease. After all, they were told the virus is a respiratory illness that enters the body through the nose and mouth. They took proactive measures to protect themselves from getting sick.

But on Feb. 29, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams took to Twitter to shame individuals doing their best to keep themselves out of clinics and the hospital. Keep in mind, this was more than two weeks before the federal government announced official social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines on March 16.

“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” he screamed through his keyboard.

We were told then that masks don’t work and that Americans shouldn’t be wearing them. At the same time, government officials were telling us they needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, nurses and others working in hospitals with cases of the disease. This PPE included masks. The illogical argument being made at the time was that masks protect doctors, but not the general public.

This argument appears to have been made in order to prevent a run on medical grade masks used by those on the front lines treating the disease, but the logic then, and now, made no sense. Masks only protect doctors? Really?

“The masks are important for someone who’s infected to prevent them from infecting someone else. Now, when you see people and look at the films in China, South Korea or whatever everybody is wearing a mask. Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” Anthony Fauci told “60 Minutes” on March 8. “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask. When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people ‘feel a little better’ and it might even block a droplet but it’s not providing the perfect protection the people think that it is. And often, there are unintended consequences. People keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.”

“When you think masks you should think of health care providers needing them, and people who are ill,” Fauci continued. “I’m not against it, if you want to do it. It can lead to a shortage for people who really need it.”

Again, masks work as protection for health care providers, but not regular people exposed to the disease at the grocery store?

Then on April 6, “in the middle of an outbreak” and the height of stay-at-home orders, federal government officials stressed a mask was not a replacement for social distancing, but could help protect people from getting sick or spreading the disease to others.

“CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published. “The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

Adams, the man who irately screamed at Americans that masks don’t work published a tutorial about how to make your own mask at home.

“Here’s how you can make your own face covering in a few easy steps with items you can find around the house. Like an old scarf, a bandana or a hand towel, or you can make a face covering out of an old T-shirt,” he explained.

Not only do masks work now, apparently one made out of an old T-shirt will do the job.

Local governments around the country have taken the federal government’s new advice that masks are in fact a helpful protective item. Some are going further by mandating masks be worn outside under threat of fining and punishment for failing to do so.

“Two days after the state’s face coverings mandate took effect, the Holbrook Board of Health said it issued $3,300 in fines to people who violated the executive order issued to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” MassLive, a local Massachusetts paper, reported last week.

“The citations will be submitted for board review, according to a Facebook post on Thursday. Anyone who wants to appeal the fine will have to contact the clerk magistrate in Quincy,” the paper continued.

“Retailers who do not comply with the executive order may see their local permits reviewed upon renewal, the board said,” according to MassLive.

Government advice on this issue has been mixed, illogical and confusing. Yet, local officials are punishing citizens for taking initial advice provided by officials that masks don’t work and shouldn’t be used.

Mixed messages, obviously inaccurate information and lectures about the effectiveness of masks has only sown distrust with the American people. 

Pavlich is the editor for and a Fox News contributor.

Updated from an earlier version.

Tags Anthony Fauci Coronavirus

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