WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is a marketing genius, who plasters his name on literally everything — Trump hotels, Trump high-rises, Trump wines, Trump Steaks, Trump water, Trump mattresses, Trump vodka, Trump board games, Trump magazine, a Trump airline and a Trump University.
So why not Trump masks?
On his campaign website, you can buy Trump-branded straws, beverage coolers, pens, Christmas ornaments and dog collars. But there are no Trump masks to be found on the site. Some private entrepreneurs are selling red “Make America Great Again” masks, but not Trump. It seems as though the president is missing a “yuge” marketing opportunity.
He’s also missing a huge political opportunity. Imagine how differently things would have played out at his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally if, instead of removing signs from seats asking participants to social distance, his campaign had left up the signs and handed out MAGA masks to everyone who entered. Rather than fending off criticism about how the rally was a third empty, the arena would have been filled to its socially distanced capacity with a sea of Trump supporters wearing MAGA masks.
Masking is the right thing to do politically, and also scientifically. A comprehensive review of 172 observational studies on mask wearing concluded that “the use of both N95 or similar respirators or face masks (e.g., disposable surgical masks or similar reusable 12-16-layer cotton masks) by those exposed to infected individuals was associated with a large reduction in risk of infection.” According to the Lancet, N95 masks (which are mostly unavailable to the general public) offered 96% protection against infection, while surgical masks (which are widely available) provided 67% protection.
Masking becomes more effective the more universal it becomes. For example, a mask does not provide much protection if you come into close contact with an infected person who is not wearing a mask. But if both of you are wearing masks, the chance of transmission is dramatically reduced. In Springfield, Missouri, two hairstylists working at the same Great Clips salon saw 140 clients over eight days in May, before finding out they both had COVID-19. Yet because both they and their customers wore masks, not a single client was reported to have contracted the virus.
Masks also protect us indirectly by changing our behavior. An Italian scientist found that people stand farther away from people wearing masks. Masks provide us with visual reminders to keep apart, wash our hands and not touch our faces. And while masks cannot completely stop droplets from spreading, they can probably reduce the amount of droplets transmitted — which could prevent infections or produce milder cases.
But the most important thing masks might do is give people confidence to go about their lives again. If the price of getting the economy moving again, and getting kids back to school in the fall, is wearing a mask, it is a small price to pay. Besides, it’s not like we will need to wear masks forever. In a matter of months, we will get a therapeutic, then we will get a vaccine, and eventually we will return to our mask-free, pre-COVID-19 lives.
Most Americans get this. A recent survey found that 74% of Americans wear masks in public “always” or “often,” while just 17% say they “rarely” or “never” wear them. Trump can bring some of those holdouts along by championing mask wearing. He has already begun to do so: This past week, Trump tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask and wrote “many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”
That’s a good start. But if Trump really wants to convince his supporters to start wearing masks, the best way to do so is to start distributing MAGA masks. If Trump supporters really want to show their defiance of the establishment, they shouldn’t go mask-less. Wear a MAGA mask. It will drive the left crazy. Remember all the stories of restaurants refusing service to Trump backers wearing MAGA hats? Well, today if a Trump supporter shows up without a mask, restaurants can refuse service on the pretext of protecting public health. But show up in a MAGA mask, and they have no excuse.
Trump’s goal should be to make MAGA masks to the 2020 election what MAGA hats were to the 2016 election. Doing so will help protect the country — and help him win a second term.