There were many missteps in the U.S. response to Covid-19, especially at the outset of the outbreak. One that stands out is the early choice to recommend against the widespread public use of masks by the Trump administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and even Anthony Fauci.
In hindsight and in light of current pro-mask guidelines, it’s easy to get upset at what feels like inconsistent advice and a delayed reaction, but the ability to change opinions based on new information is what we should want from public-health officials, even while wishing they were faster or right the first time around. That’s how science works, especially during the rapid spread of a previously unknown virus. It’s easy to forget, but the initial recommendations came from somewhere. There was legitimate concern that recommending mask use could lead to a run on plunging stocks of specialized equipment intended for health workers. On top of that, some worried that people would be too confident in the protective ability of misused masks of varying quality. Mea culpa, I was among those that found these arguments compelling earlier in the year.
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