America’s craziest reaction to pandemic
As the coronavirus death toll continues to grow in the US, a worrying backlash against face masks has emerged.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has urged all Americans to wear cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But after the CDC released its health guidelines, the US President Donald Trump was quick to call the warnings "advice", adding that he would not personally be wearing a mask.
Conflicting advice from the top of government has led to a bizarre culture war in the US, with bitter divisions growing over what is right when it comes to your own face and health.
A convenience store in Kentucky received media attention last week for refusing entry to customers wearing a mask.
"No face masks allowed in store," a sign in the window read. "Lower your mask or go somewhere else.
"Stop listening to (Kentucky governor Andy) Beshear, he's a dumbass."
Another business made headlines after a former employee put up similar signs at the BP in Peoria Heights in Illinois, saying she was using her first amendment rights, and feared criminals would wear masks while committing crimes. The signs, that urged people wearing masks to "go elsewhere", got the worker sacked.
A video of people flouting mask guidelines across the US went viral over the weekend, with writer Anand Giridharadas saying Americans have a "warped freedom obsession".
A misbegotten, warped freedom obsession is killing us. pic.twitter.com/KbYaTVtR0O— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) May 22, 2020
The growing issue remains contentious for the President, who wore a mask on Friday while touring a Ford factory, which produces face masks, but wouldn't allow reporters to see him with it on.
"I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," he told reporters.
Earlier this month, more tensions over masks had caused frictions in communities across the country. In Stillwater, Oklahoma, a plan to reopen restaurants was proposed by city officials, along with a mandatory mask order to protect customers and workers. But the order had to be removed, after workers were verbally abused by customers, who arrived at restaurants and refused to wear the face coverings, according to the BBC.
In another disturbing incident in the city of Flint in Michigan a security guard was shot and killed by a customer who refused to wear a mask this month. Three family members have been charged over the killing, and investigators said the security guard had got into an argument with the group after asking them to wear masks into the discount store earlier this month.
Mike DeWine, Republican Governor of Ohio said at the beginning of May that asking people to wear masks had become "a bridge too far".
Mr DeWine was praised for his early efforts stopping the spread of the virus in his own state, but said Americans could not accept taking certain orders from the government.
"People were not going to accept the government telling them what to do," Mr DeWine said.
The coronavirus has infected more than 1.6 million Americans, according to a global tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Of those infected more than 97,600 have died.
Originally published as America's craziest reaction to pandemic