Anti-maskers are not on the fringes of society anymore, unfortunately — and neither are QAnon believers. Now, the first member of Congress to openly espouse QAnon theories is also bringing anti-mask rhetoric to Washington, D.C. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Congresswoman-elect in Georgia, has told her fellow newly elected members of Congress that, in her opinion, masks are oppressive.
“Our first session of New Member Orientation covered COVID in Congress. Masks, masks, masks.... I proudly told my freshman class that masks are oppressive. In GA, we work out, shop, go to restaurants, go to work, and school without masks. My body, my choice. #FreeYourFace,” Greene tweeted today. Her dangerous comments come as the United States enters another ominous COVID-19 wave and the need for more shutdowns looms.
Greene's comments are particularly troubling as her home state of Georgia sees cases rapidly rising. There were nearly 3,000 reported cases there on Thursday, with 2,045 people currently hospitalized due to COVID, according to data from The New York Times. There have also been 8,655 reported COVID deaths in the state, with a 56% increase in the last two weeks. Across the country as a whole, cases have broken records recently, with 163,000 new reported cases on Thursday alone. There have now been more than 10 million cases in the U.S. since the pandemic began in March, and in addition, the U.S. has recorded more than 1,000 deaths per day for the last week.
While wearing masks can’t completely stop the pandemic from spreading, mask-wearing — along with measures like social distancing and not gathering indoors — has proven effective over the course of 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also affirmed this week that wearing masks protects other people as well as those wearing masks — and that the more people wear masks both consistently and correctly, the more protective benefits masks will offer. According to the CDC, “Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets, which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, and who are estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions.”
The fact is that wearing masks is a matter of collective safety, and should not cause a culture war. And yet that's exactly what has happened thanks to the people in power, like Greene, who are ignoring the need for masks, and have reduced the issue to an inconsequential personal preference that the left is trying to blow out of proportion. It's also concerning that Greene is spreading this rhetoric in Congress, as we’ve already seen the negative effects of refusals to wear masks in government. In October, President Donald Trump, his family members, and some of his closest advisers and staff became ill with COVID. Now, over 100 secret service members are isolating due to another outbreak in the White House.
As the pandemic wears on, it looks like there will continue to be battles of belief in prevention methods and the severe realities of the disease — even among leaders who are meant to be protecting and fighting for the well-being of their constituents.