May 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ohio governor condemns politics in face mask debate

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) denounced the partisanship that has infiltrated the debate over face masks in the U.S., telling NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday: "This is not about politics. ... It's about helping other people."

Why it matters: Face masks have become a political symbol for some Americans in the brewing culture war over containing the coronavirus, AP reports. 76% of Democrats say they wear a mask when leaving home, compared to 59% of Republicans, according to a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

What he's saying: "This is not about whether you're liberal or conservative," DeWine said. "Left or right. Republican, Democrat. ... It's been very clear what the studies have shown. You wear the mask, not to protect yourself so much as to protect others."

  • "This is one time when we truly are all in this together. What we do directly impacts others," he added.

Between the lines: DeWine, a Republican governor who has received praise for his aggressive early response to the coronavirus, has faced controversy himself over mandatory mask policy.

  • Earlier this month, he reversed a decision requiring face masks in Ohio stores, stating that it "became clear to [him] that that was just a bridge too far. People were not going to accept the government telling them what to do."
  • But DeWine maintained at the time that wearing masks while in public is the "kind thing" to do.

The big picture: While President Trump continues to refuse to wear a mask in public, his public health officials are urging Americans to do so as the country gathers to celebrate Memorial Day weekend.

  • Former Trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert called it "common decency," while White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said Americans "must wear a mask" when unable to socially distance outside.
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