Your Health Is in Your Hands? US CDC COVID-19 Mask Guidance Reveals the Moral Foundations of Public Health

EClinicalMedicine - The Lancet

2 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2021

See all articles by Cecília Tomori

Cecília Tomori

Johns Hopkins University - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Aziza Ahmed

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Dabney P. Evans

Hubert Department of Global Health

Benjamin Mason Meier

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Aparna Nair

University of Oklahoma

Date Written: August 10, 2021

Abstract

In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, US public health policy remains at a crossroads. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) May 28, 2021 guidance, which lifted masking recommendations for vaccinated people in most situations, exemplifies a troubling shift — away from public health objectives that center equity and toward a model of individual personal responsibility for health. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that "your health is in your hands," undermining the idea that fighting COVID is a "public" health responsibility that requires the support of institutions and communities. The social impacts of this scientific guidance, combined with the emergence of new variants, have exposed the fallacy of this approach, with most local mask restrictions lifted and infections rising dramatically among disadvantaged populations. Rapidly rising cases prompted the CDC on July 27th to recommend resuming indoor masking even for vaccinated people in "areas of substantial or high transmission," but US policy continues to frame the pandemic largely as a matter of individual responsibility to the detriment of public health. As public health professionals and advocates, we call for a renewed commitment to core public health principles of collective responsibility, health equity, and human rights.

Note: Funding: None to declare.

Declaration of Interests: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Keywords: COVID-19, public health, individualism, collective responsibility, health equity, human rights

Suggested Citation

Tomori, Cecília and Ahmed, Aziza and Evans, Dabney P. and Meier, Benjamin Mason and Nair, Aparna, Your Health Is in Your Hands? US CDC COVID-19 Mask Guidance Reveals the Moral Foundations of Public Health (August 10, 2021). EClinicalMedicine - The Lancet, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3908228

Cecília Tomori

Johns Hopkins University - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health ( email )

Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205
United States

Aziza Ahmed

University of California, Irvine School of Law

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Dabney P. Evans

Hubert Department of Global Health ( email )

1518 Clifton Road
Mailstop 1518-002-7BB
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-3061 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.dabneyevans.com

Benjamin Mason Meier (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ( email )

CB 3435
103 Abernethy Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States
919-962-0542 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.benjaminmasonmeier.com/

Aparna Nair

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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