Across the world, people have willingly donned masks en masse to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, in the U.S. -- wearing a mask remains a point of contention for many who believe it's a sign of subjugation and/or doubt its effectiveness.
The U.S. continues to lead the world by a wide margin in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths -- and the number of new cases recently began to rise rapidly in late-June to new highs as multiple states, primarily those in the southern half of the country, began reporting record spikes.
Elsewhere in countries such as Japan and South Korea whose citizens have utilized face masks for decades as part of a cultural norm to prevent the spread of illnesses -- COVID-19 infections remain notably low, particularly when considering their population density. Both countries have continued to see their new daily infections remain below 100 for more than a month, compared to tens of thousands of new daily cases in the U.S.
As the U.S. grapples with record-high infection rates, health leaders, politicians and other people from around the country have continued to ask the millions not wearing masks for months to start doing so to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those cries largely continue to fall on deaf ears, though, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) believes part of the reason is due to masks being politically stigmatized within part of President Donald Trump's base as the president continues to forgo wearing a mask out in public in most situations.
Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee, recently appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics" to give his thoughts, saying he believes the "millions of Americans who admire President Trump would follow his lead if he wore a mask when it’s appropriate."
"His experts have told all of us that wearing masks, social distancing and washing your hands is the way we can contain the disease, to go back to school and back to work," he said. "It also would help to get rid of this political debate that if you're for President Trump, you don't wear a mask, and if you're against President Trump, you do wear a mask. The stakes are much too high for that."
Alexander said he wants to see the president don a mask to help end the politicization of masks, saying he thinks we're going to continue dealing with the coronavirus through 2020 until a vaccine is created.
“I understand why he doesn’t. Most of the time he's with people who have been tested, he's been tested,” Alexander said. "But there are times when he could wear a mask or the vice president could wear a mask. I think it would be a sign of strength if he would from time to time wear a mask and remind everyone it's a good way [to slow the spread of COVID-19].”
Some states and cities like North Carolina and Nashville have begun mandating wearing masks in public spaces, but most continue to recommend rather than demand wearing them.