Politics impacting health professionals' message surrounding masks

NOW: Politics impacting health professionals’ message surrounding masks

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Health professionals say masks can be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19, but the politics around wearing one is impacting their message.

This comes as Republican lawmakers continue their efforts to end the statewide mask requirement. Some Republicans question the effectiveness of masks, resulting in some deciding to not wear one at the Capitol. 

UW-Madison Political Science Professor David Canon tells CBS 58 this can create mixed messaging around mask-wearing, creating confirmation basis.

“You tend to believe information that confirms your own pre-existing views, and you discount counters to what you believe,” said Canon.

As the pandemic progressed last year, so did people’s views on masks. It started after President Donald Trump often contradicted his own health advisors and downplaying the severity of COVID-19, said Canon. This created a model for states to follow, with Democratic and Republican governors taking different approaches to respond to the virus.

“You saw Democratic governors going after more restrictive lockdowns, mask mandates, then Republican governors not doing those things, so that’s when you started to see this partisan split,” Canon said. 

The divide is only heating up as Republicans in the Assembly are one vote away from ending the statewide mask requirement despite a majority of Wisconsinites (72%) supportive of wearing one, according to the latest Marquette University Law School Poll from October.

“Masking works, it should be practiced widely and at this point there shouldn’t be a debate about the effectiveness of masks,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, UW-Madison Hospital.

Safdar said she’s concerned if the GOP push to eliminate the mask order succeeds, it could result in a spike in cases in Wisconsin. 

Governor Evers can issue a new emergency order requiring residents to mask up, but that will likely result in another political feud with the Republican-led legislature.

On Friday, Evers said it’s premature to decide if he would issue another order since Republicans have yet to end the mask requirement.

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