The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States said in January that they were recommending the use of masks to “people who are doing well”. On 29 February, the surgeon general, u.s. Jerome Adams went further, tweet a warning: “STOP BUYING MASKS”.
But weeks later, the board was reversed. On 3 April, while the number of deaths from the coronavirus in the United States reached more than 7 000, the CDC has changed its recommendation to state that the “cover-cloth face” should be worn when the social distance cannot be maintained.
The turnaround on the masks, and the political divisiveness that followed have symbolized the chaos of the american response to the pandemic that is still raging. This can also be particularly detrimental to the global position of the America, because it attracted not only political leaders like Trump, but also public health experts widely respected which have not initially supported the wearing of facial masks.
“I always thought the CDC as a reliable source of information and trust “, said to The Post last week Siouxsie Wiles, infectious disease specialist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “More now. “
Anthony S. Fauci, director of the national Institute of allergy and infectious diseases and a key advisor on the pandemic in the first few months, was asked at a hearing in the House this week if he regretted earlier advice against the use of masks.
The debate on the masks could intensify in the weeks to come, so that the United States increase in full re-opening economic. Some governments have recently decided to make compulsory the wearing of masks in public, but a lot of people, including the president and some of his supporters, there are still only rarely.
In other countries, there is no such a gap. In many asian countries, the surgical masks were socially acceptable long before the outbreak of coronavirus, in part because of the experience of past pandemics, such as SARS in 2003.
“In Hong Kong, it is quite common, even without an epidemic, to see people walking around masked because they may be sick and they do not want to infect other people,” Keiji Fukuda, the director of the school of the University of Hong Kong of public health, said Today’s WorldView in march.
While the suspicion grew that the symptoms were spreading the virus, many of the holdouts have changed course. Singapore has initially discouraged the general public to wear masks, but has reversed this directive, implementing the act on April 14, which was fined $ 212 for those who violate the rules.
It is difficult to conduct high-quality research on the effectiveness of masks against the new coronavirus during a pandemic, but a series of studies published this summer, sustained the port of the mask.
A review funded by the world health Organization and published in the journal Lancet examined data from 172 observational studies, and concluded that the wearing of facial masks to reduce the risk of infection by a coronavirus.
For many, it was all the evidence needed. Other policies to control the spread of the virus are extremely costly and practically difficult, the closure of schools and offices in the implementation of a follow-up of contacts complicated. A mask, on the other hand, is cheap and has few disadvantages.
And yet, the us president avoids to wear a mask in public, joining a small group of leaders that includes the Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko.
The president of the brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, who has dismissed the threat of the virus, although his country was accumulating the second highest number of deaths in the world, was this week ordered by a federal judge in brazil wearing a mask in public in Brasilia.
VIDEO: brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has worn a face mask during an official event in Brasilia, following a decision by a federal judge requiring him to wear one in public spaces. Brazil is the second country most affected by the virus in the world pic.twitter.com/V63X08liMR
– Press agency AFP (@AFP) 24 June 2020
The division masks in the United States, however, cannot be attributed only to the vanity of the president. As Fauci noted Tuesday, the United States expressed concern about the early availability of surgical masks and N95 masks to essential workers, and this has had a distorting effect on the debate.
Supply concerns have also influenced the late decision of the WHO to modify its own global guidelines for masks since the 5th of June, because some countries would not have been able to provide masks.
But the balance constant of the pandemic in the United States, and the events that followed after the death of George Floyd, have left many countries outside re-evaluate the world’s lone superpower.
“We live with the idea that the United States has a ability to rebound, which is almost unlimited”, recently told the Atlantic the Atlantic Michel Duclos, former ambassador of France in Syria. “For the first time, I begin to have doubts. “
The United States has already suffered serious damage to its international reputation, particularly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and a number of decisions involving Trump for 2016. However, this time, it is not only the political leaders to supporters who are facing difficult issues, but also experts in non-political.
Bloomberg Opinion was asked on this week with writers from around the world what they thought of the american response to the coronavirus, and several have mentioned the debate politically charged on the masks, as well as larger concerns about how the United States will use the expertise that they have accumulated.
“America has some of the best professionals and hospitals of the world “, explained Ferninando Guigliano, a columnist for Italian. “But it lacks a centralized structure, which gives you the certainty that the country as a whole can effectively fight against the pandemic. “
This story has been updated with the details of the WHO guidelines on the use of masks.