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The mask has become a political statement. President Trump is being criticized for his refusal to wear one. And in response, Democratic candidate Joe Biden made his first public appearance in one today at a Memorial Day ceremony:
Joe Biden has left his house for the first time in two months for a Memorial Day visit to the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park and lay a wreath. pic.twitter.com/34D4Gd0YcC
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) May 25, 2020
Biden’s choice of a mask highlights why he’s wearing it: to virtue-signal and draw a distinction between him and Trump.
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) May 25, 2020
Biden is wearing a black cloth mask, black presumably in honor of the day. But why wear it at all? The cloth mask doesn’t protect the wearer, it protects those who may encounter them. The cloth mask does not filter out the virus, it protects those outside from spit and vapor particles (and not especially well, they’re mostly just for show).
Why would Biden wear a cloth mask? He’s been isolated for two months; there’s no way he has the virus. Biden, however, is in the age group where he should be wearing a mask, but to protect himself, not protect anyone from him. If Biden were making a logical choice with his mask selection, he would be in an N95, not a cloth mask slipping off of his nose.
The fixation on the mask as a symbol is sometimes bordering on satire, like here with actress Alyssa Milano, in a mask full of holes:
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 23, 2020
And it’s making people crazy, like here in Staten Island at a supermarket, where shoppers harassed a woman not wearing one:
— McAuley (@McauleyHolmes) May 25, 2020
Here’s a crazy idea: If you’re high-risk, if you see a shopper not in a mask, keep a “social distance.” If you’re high-risk and choose to go out, invest in N95 masks. But it’s not about the mask as a public health measure anymore, it’s about the mask acting as some sort of social signal, even when they don’t make any sense.