Will Leitch

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A Society That Cannot Figure Out How To Wear a Mask Correctly Perhaps Does Not Deserve to Continue

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CBS

This weekend, Jeremy Pruitt, head football coach for the Tennessee Volunteers, wore a facial covering that covered everything but his face. The great Spencer Hall, writer at the college football site Moon Crew, went on a glorious rant mocking Pruitt, and it’s one you are strongly encouraged to read in its entirety if you are someone who appreciates joy and mirth. But for a taste:

Jeremy Pruitt looks like the loneliest dude at Burning Man. Jeremy Pruitt looks like an undercover cop pulling up to a snowboarding halfpipe asking where he can get some “chronic.” Jeremy Pruitt looks like a Batman villain whose superpowers get stronger the closer he gets to a Rally’s.

The most hilarious thing about Pruitt’s attempt (?) to wear a mask on the sidelines of a football game is that this was meant to be an improvement. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had threatened coaches with $100,000 fines if they weren’t wearing masks on the sidelines, and it probably tells you all you need to know about Southern college football coaches that almost all of them got it wrong anyway. Still: It is difficult to wear a mask in a way that’s so wrong that it covers everything but the parts that are breathing.

Not that people aren’t trying to top Pruitt. We have gone through such a nationwide battle about masking — somehow, one that is still happening — that it’s tempting to compliment someone simply for attempting to wear a mask correctly. But it remains truly remarkable, seven-plus months into the pandemic in this country, how much confusion there remains on what a mask is supposed to do.

I am not an expert in masks. (Who is an expert in masks? If there is such a thing, did this person have a career before March?) But I understand the fundamental concept of masks, at least regarding their purpose during a pandemic in which we are being ravaged by highly contagious disease that is spread through the air: It covers your nose, and it covers your mouth. This is all a mask has to do. This is why you wear one.

This is not wearing a mask.

This is also not wearing a mask:

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This is really not wearing a mask:

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It has gotten to the point that even public service announcements are getting snarky about it.

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There’s a margin for error here. Even if you do not seem to fundamentally understand how a mask works, you can still get it right. Check out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who gets it so wrong but still somehow finds a way to get to the right place.

The only real thing you have to do is try. Unlike this guy who, unfortunately, is one of the people in charge of coronavirus response in this country, and now suddenly this is all explaining a lot.

When the history of this era is written, that history will be accompanied by pictures. Those pictures will be of hundreds of thousands of human beings, many of them the highest paid public employees in their states (like Pruitt), or ostensibly leaders of public policy (like Meadows), not understanding what a mask is for or how to wear one. I often worry about how to best describe in words the overwhelming dumbness of living through this time in history. But I might not need words at all. I can just show photos of people from this time.

Will Leitch will be writing multiple pieces a week for Medium. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel “How Lucky,” released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.

Written by

Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

Thanks to Brendan Vaughan

Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

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