There Are Lots of Reasons to Be Outraged Other Than Susan Collins’ Lack of a Face Mask

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Today, like any good politics blogger, I tuned in to watch the first major hearing by the Senate on the government response to the coronavirus pandemic. And, like any good politics blogger, I had Twitter open in a separate tab. Much to my surprise, instead of Dr. Anthony Fauci—the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—or Centers for Disease Control head Dr. Robert Redfield, who was trending but Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). I clicked on her name. Surely, I thought, her absurd defense of the dental lobby was going viral.

 

But no! Instead, I found post after viral post criticizing her for not wearing a mask.

For all the reasons to criticize Collins—her decisive vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, for example, or her reluctance to convict President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial—this one actually seems to be unfair. Here’s why.

At the beginning of the hearing, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), announced that senators were allowed to remove their masks when speaking because they were all six feet apart. From the footage I have been poring over to get to the bottom of this pressing issue, I can see that Senator Collins, also known as the villain, entered the hearing room wearing a mask. She said hello to Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), sat down at her isolated seat, and, after a few minutes, slipped off her mask. During that time, the Twitter outrage began.

Later in the hearing, her mask was back on, where it remained for the rest of the hearing, except when she was speaking. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain”—not in Senate hearings where all who are attending are amply spread apart. There isn’t even a scientific consensus on how effective face coverings are in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but we don’t need to get into that here. (President Trump, it turns out, wouldn’t be caught dead in a mask.) So, please, can we stop with the mask shaming and figure out why Collins wants to risk lives to appease Maine’s dentists? 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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