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Mixed messaging surrounding combating the spread of the coronavirus is the huge test now facing the United States, according to the former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think the big challenge is that we’re seeing a clash of messages,” Richard Besser told MSNBC’s Katy Tur on Monday, as the country saw yet another record surge in the number of confirmed cases of the contagion and some states moved to reimpose lockdown restrictions.

The CDC encourages the wearing of masks in public when social distancing is not possible. Commentators, however, say its messaging has been polluted by some politicians and public figures who have ignored the guidelines.

President Donald Trump has refused to wear a mask in public. Not wearing a mask has become a point of principle among some of his supporters.

“Every single public health leader in the nation is saying we’re in the early days of this pandemic and what we do really matters,” said Besser, who led the CDC during the first six months of the Obama administration and oversaw its response to the swine flu pandemic of 2009.”

“When I wear a mask, it’s because I respect your health, and I’m trying to keep you healthy,” he continued. “When I keep six feet away, it’s because I’m concerned about my health, but your health as well.”

Besser noted how “you see red states and blue states that are being careful and slow and then you see states that are saying ‘let’s get back to work, let’s get back to our social life, there’s nothing to worry about.’”

“And that’s a really dangerous situation,” he warned.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus