Face masks are a symbol of freedom, says US surgeon general

Jerome Adams wrote that masks will give all Americans the freedom to resume everyday life

Andrew Naughtie
Monday 15 June 2020 11:15 BST
US Surgeon General dons face mask to encourage Americans to use them

US surgeon general Jerome Adams has told Americans that wearing a face mask should be thought of as a means to secure everyone’s freedom, in contrast to many on the right who view instructions to wear them as an attack on individual liberty.

“Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice,” he wrote on Twitter, “but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.

“Face coverings > less asymptomatic viral spread > more places open, and sooner!

“Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a face covering!

In a subsequent tweet, Dr Adams acknowledged the reaction he received.

“Lots of strong feelings all around. Ultimately it is a choice we make, and I hope it’s made based on the best available/ current science, and a desire to do all we can to help others and ourselves/ our communities. Like vaccines, the more who participate, the greater the impact.”

Face masks have lately become another front in a political culture war over the response to the coronavirus, one that has reached the halls of Congress, where some Republican members have refused to cover their faces while progressive Democrats shame anyone who goes without one.

While members of the Trump administration and White House staff are now regularly seen wearing masks in public and at work, including at Donald Trump’s press briefings, the president himself has repeatedly declined to be seen wearing one.

After he stood barefaced before the cameras on a visit to a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan, that state’s attorney general said that Mr Trump would be asked “not to return to any enclosed facilities” in Michigan, and that any company or facility that allowed him in unmasked would face legal action.

Nonetheless, Mr Trump remains determined to avoid blanket mask policies. He has moved this summer’s Republican National Convention from North Carolina to Florida after taking umbrage at the former’s social distancing measures, which made it likely that the crowd at his formal renomination would be both masked and less numerous than the president would prefer.

Dr Adams, who recently recorded a video in which he put on a mask and told Americans to do the same, served as the state health commissioner of Indiana while now-vice president Mike Pence was governor.

During that time, the state found itself dealing with an HIV outbreak in a deprived region with high rates of intravenous drug use. Mr Pence has since faced severe opprobrium for his slowness to act in the epidemic’s early stages, in particular his hesitancy to open needle exchanges.

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