Kansas City group aims to take the politics out of face masks

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No one quite seems sure how or when it happened, but there’s no disputing the observation that the decision over whether to wear a protective mask in public has taken on a political dimension.

“I’m pretty sure no one expected that mask wearing would become a political issue in our country,” KC Star columnist and FOX4 contributor Dave Helling said.

“Masks have just become symbols of this dispute over how far the government can go to try to protect us from these problems.”

Even actor Matthew McConaughey vowed to tackle the issue during an appearance on Fox News this week.

“If you want to wear a mask, you’re a liberal. If you don’t want to wear a mask, you’re a conservative. That’s just not true,” McConaughey said.

Now, a public-private partnership in the metro is working to take the divisive edge of politics out of the discussion of personal protective equipment.

“This virus is a great reminder of the fact that we’re all human. We’re all human together. It’s the great equalizer,” said Tyler Nottberg, chairman and CEO of U.S. Engineering.

Nottberg and several other metro corporate heavyweights have created Comeback KC, an effort to push for more testing, tracing and a unified message on how the public can limit risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“One of the things that we need to continue to try to avoid, as a community, is taking any of these kind of public recommendations from a public health standpoint and trying to use them as surrogates for political parties,” Nottberg said.

“For example, if you wear a mask or if you don’t wear a mask, that has nothing to do with what your political affiliation is and everything to do with what our community health looks like.”

Helling believes if it weren’t the mask, something else would be the lightning rod for controversy over the government’s response to the virus.

“They’ve really restricted our movement, in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” Helling said. “And the mask becomes a symbol of that. The mask becomes a symbol of the government saying, in essence: ‘This is how you must protect yourself.'”

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