Contradiction and Double Binds in COVID-19 Face Covering Recommendations


Contradiction and Double Binds in COVID-19 Face Covering Recommendations


Tyler Spradley, Ph.D.1*, Elizabeth L. Spradley, Ph.D.1

 1Stephen F. Austin State University.


The global coronavirus pandemic incited swift public health recommendations and education in the United States and throughout the world to reduce the spread of the virus. In the U.S., the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the “Slow the Spread” campaign in 15 and 30-day increments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health organizations and representatives weighed in on the role of face coverings to counter COVID-19 threats to public health. Face coverings became a contested public health recommendation. This article rhetorically analyzes contradiction in COVID-19 face covering recommendations and the ensuant double-binds. Analysis of press conferences, national public health websites, and the “Slow the Spread” campaign reveals contradictions in individual risk-averse public health recommendations, specifically face coverings. Contradictions were categorized into: uncover-cover, risky-risk averse, voluntary-recommended-required, and politically right-left. Implications of contradictory messages create double binds for the public seeking to adhere to public health recommendations for personal and public safety. Double binding public health messages undermine public health goals because double binds often result in maladaptive, inappropriate responses. Conclusions assert that to be a responsible citizen of personal and public health in a viral pandemic is a contested and contradictory accomplishment.


Keywords: COVID-19; Contradiction; Double Binds


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How to cite this article:
R. Tyler Spradley, Elizabeth L. Spradley. Contradiction and Double Binds in COVID-19 Face Covering Recommendations. International Research Journal of Health Education, 2020; 3:13. DOI: 10.28933/irjhe-2020-09-1205


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