In a day when a deadly health threat has become political fodder, the face mask has emerged as a symbol of divisiveness.
Wear a face mask and you buy into the seriousness of COVID-19 and are working to do your part to stem the spread of the virus.
Don’t wear a mask and you’re part of a movement that treats coronavirus like a political hoax aimed at crippling the economy and taking down President Trump and his allies.
Gov. Bill Lee discussed the face mask controversy Tuesday morning when he called in to Warren County’s weekly coronavirus press conference.
“It’s not good when anything gets politicized,” said Gov. Lee. “COVID-19 doesn’t care what type of politics you have. This is real.”
As of Tuesday, Tennessee has 20,965 confirmed COVID-19 cases. That includes 13,344 who have been declared recovered, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. There have been 343 deaths.
In Warren County, there have been 21 confirmed cases with 13 of those declared recovered. There have been no reported COVID-19 deaths in Warren County.
“For the 350 Tennessee families who have lost somebody, it’s not fair to say this virus is a hoax,” said Lee, who added around 400 Tennesseans are contracting the virus daily. “Wearing a mask is a way of saying I’m protecting you from me. It says I’m going to be part of this. I’m going to protect my neighbors and remind people to be a little more careful during this time. It is either going to overtake our society or we live with it and learn to deal with it.”
Gov. Lee said there is no disputing the fact COVID-19 is spread through human contact. He said washing hands regularly, wearing a mask and not packing in venues are all ways to limit the spread.
“If you limit human contact, you limit the spread and there’s not much arguing with that,” said Lee.
The resistance to face masks has been stoked by President Trump, who didn’t wear a mask during an appearance at a facility making them, and other politicians who have flouted rules and questioned the value of masks. It’s a development that has worried health officials as Americans are increasingly returning to public areas.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they’re wearing a face mask when leaving home, 76% to 59%, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Those are nationwide polling numbers and not necessarily indicative of rural Tennessee where a much smaller percentage of residents appear to be wearing face masks.