Masks aren’t on Pence’s list

Vice pres­i­dent’s advice omits use of face masks

USA TODAY US Edition - - NATION - El­iz­a­beth Weise

In a list of things Amer­i­cans should do to pro­tect them­selves and oth­ers against coro­n­avirus, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence on Fri­day men­tioned ev­ery­thing health of­fi­cials say Amer­i­cans should do: hand wash­ing, avoid­ing touch­ing the face, dis­in­fect­ing fre­quently.

He point­edly did not men­tion two of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion’s main pieces of advice: wear­ing face masks and so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

Pence was speak­ing at the first news con­fer­ence of the White House Pan­demic Task Force has held since April 27. He did not wear a mask dur­ing the news con­fer­ence.

Health of­fi­cials who were there, in­clud­ing Dr. An­thony Fauci, wore masks ex­cept when speak­ing at the mi­cro­phone.

Wear­ing face cov­er­ings and prac­tic­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing was front and cen­ter later on in the news con­fer­ence when CDC di­rec­tor Dr. Robert Red­field – who wore a mask when he was not at the podium – em­pha­sized both.

“I want to stress and thank all Amer­i­cans to em­brace the im­por­tance of so­cial dis­tanc­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to slow the spread of COVID. As I’ve said be­fore, we’re not de­fense­less. These are in fact very pow­er­ful weapons, and it’s our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to recom­mit our­selves to put them into rou­tine prac­tice,” he said.

He urged Amer­i­cans to “stay 6 feet apart from each other as much as pos­si­ble. To wear face cov­er­ings when we’re in pub­lic. And to prac­tice vig­or­ous hand hy­giene. And to com­mit to do so to do our part to pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble,” he said.

The vice pres­i­dent’s omis­sions do not fit with the advice com­ing from the CDC, the na­tion’s premier pub­lic health agency.

In a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day, Red­field said: “This pan­demic is not over. The most pow­er­ful tool that we have, a pow­er­ful weapon, is so­cial dis­tanc­ing.”

Asked about whether wear­ing fa­cial cov­er­ings has be­come politi­cized, Pence said peo­ple should lis­ten to the guid­ance of their state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Both pro­tec­tive mea­sures have be­come highly politi­cized in the United States de­spite be­ing en­tirely sup­ported as virus mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures by the sci­ence and by pub­lic health of­fi­cials in the United States and glob­ally.

Masks, whether surgery-qual­ity N95s or the hand­made va­ri­ety, are con­sid­ered a re­li­able de­fen­sive mea­sure against the spread of coro­n­avirus be­cause they pre­vent those in­fected from spread­ing the virus through droplets ex­it­ing their mouth and nose.

Wear­ing masks turned po­lit­i­cal after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Pence, who have been push­ing for a fast restart of the U.S. econ­omy, did not wear masks in pub­lic set­tings.

Trump has said he will not per­son­ally wear masks, and some Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have mocked wear­ing masks.

SU­SAN WALSH/AP

Dr. An­thony Fauci, right, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases, lis­tens as Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence with the Coro­n­avirus task force Fri­day in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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