It really should be obvious at this point, but with America continuing to surpass previous records for daily new coronavirus cases, a warning seems warranted: If you plan on getting together with people to celebrate the Fourth of July this weekend, wear a mask.
That’s the impetus behind a new alert Facebook is pushing out at the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds nationwide this week. In lieu of the holiday weekend, it’s an effort to remind people to protect themselves and others by wearing face coverings to help stop the spread of covid-19, the potentially deadly respiratory illness caused by the virus.
“With the rise in COVID-19 cases in the US, we’re putting an alert at the top of Facebook and Instagram to remind everyone to wear face coverings and find more prevention tips from the CDC in our COVID-19 Information Center,” the company wrote in a Thursday blog post.
(It should be noted that even with the Fourth of July coming up, this timing seems pretty convenient given all the bad press Facebook’s had this week. Between new allegations surfacing about racial discrimination against its Black employees and its widgets legally being qualified as wiretaps, I’ve no doubt Zuck and the other leads at Facebook are eager to be painted as something other than mustache-twirling movie villains right now.)
The alert, which echoes guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in April, is available in both English and Spanish in the U.S. with plans to roll the feature out internationally in the future, Facebook told NBC.
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“This decision is based on public health and messaging coming from our partners. Like everyone else we’re concerned about the recent uptick in cases and thought this was an especially important message to go loud with heading into the holiday weekend,” Facebook said in an emailed statement to the outlet.
Despite overwhelming data from experts and researchers that show masks help reduce the spread of the virus, wearing one has become an increasingly politicized topic in America. Right-wing politicians and conspiracy theorists alike have spun statewide requirements to wear masks and related shelter-in-place orders as Constitutional violations and covert schemes orchestrated by liberals, baseless theories that nonetheless have spread like wildfire across social media along with a scourge of other coronavirus misinformation.
Social media platforms have been struggling to curb this spread of fake claims and misinformation online for the bulk of this year, though several have ramped up their efforts as states nationwide have begun relaxing their coronavirus restrictions (in apparent disregard to data that clearly suggests that’s a very bad idea).
Yesterday, Twitter waded into the discussion with a tweet promising to satisfy users’ long-running demand for an option to edit their posts. There’s just one stipulation: “You can have an edit button when everyone wears a mask,” the company wrote, no doubt tongue-in-cheek since CEO Jack Dorsey has previously said the chances of that happening are effectively zero.
Snapchat tried to incentivize wearing face masks this week as well in the form of a new selfie filter, NBC reports. If the filter detects that a user is wearing a face mask, it gives them the option to decorate it. For users not wearing a mask, though, the filter instructs them to correct that and doesn’t mince words, displaying a message that reads “PUT ON A FACE MASK.”
On Thursday, the U.S. reported 55,220 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day total since the pandemic began, according to the Washington Post. The nation leads the world in total cases at more than 2.7 million and total deaths at 129,227 people per the Coronavirus Research Center at Johns Hopkins. And, unlike other developed countries, the U.S. seems far from flattening the virus’s curve within its borders.
If these tallies terrify you, good! Please keep them in mind while celebrating safely this weekend.