Face Mask Becoming Political
U.S congressman Louie Gohmert refuses to wear a mask in congress, unlike his colleagues. Then evidently, he tested positive for the coronavirus. However, in the interview, he suggested that he got COVID-19 because of the time he did wear a mask. Gohmert's distrust of masks is shared by tons of Americans. A poll in July asked Americans how often they wear a mask. Among the democrats, almost everyone said they wear a mask in public, but significantly fewer Republicans said so. Nevertheless, today's message from public health officials is clearly wearing a mask that helps stop the spread of Covid-19. So, where did this communication break down? How was something as simple as wearing a mask allowed to become political?
In October 2001, the U.S bungled a different public health crisis. Someone sent envelopes of deadly anthrax to media organizations and government offices. First, the secretary of health and human services went on T.V and speculated about how the first victim might have gotten it. As the crisis continued, different officials gave different, conflicting information. No one was really in charge of communicating to the public, and it led the U.S centers for disease control to make the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication guide or CERC. It is a guide to how to communicate during a public health crisis. The ERC guidelines are a reflection of the lessons that were learned from failures. Glen Nowak used to be in charge of communication for the CDC. He's Used the CERC and even wholesome of it.
He says one of the biggest lessons from the Anthrax attack is what the CERC now calls "The most critical role in a crisis and the key to preventing mass confusion having a single person as the spokesperson. It helps to have one primary voice, one first face. The CERC says the spokesperson should be familiar with the subject matter and talk about it clearly and confidently. Many communications, particularly in a public health crisis, is about setting guiding and managing people's expectations. I
it's important early on to not just talk about what you know, but what you don't know. Essentially the spokesperson needs to be seen as trustworthy and credible, which is one reason you don't want your spokesperson to be a politician because it's tough for any politician to be seen as credible by everyone. They often resonate with those who support them, and they don't resonate with those who did not vote for them. That doesn't mean political leaders can't be involved in public health communication; they can't take the lead on science. An excellent example of a government following these principles during COVID-19 was in New Zealand, where the prime minister was at many daily briefings but wasn't leading it.
What's important is that everybody is on the same page concerning the overall messaging. However, in the U.S, there hasn't been a clear spokesperson or a clear message. Press conferences were led by President Trump and would feature politicians as well as public health experts. They often contradicted each other. Especially when it came to guiding these expectations. This conflicts asked many Americans to pick a side Which do you believe the president