Biden calls for mask mandates in all 50 states: 'It's about saving Americans' lives'

Joe Biden on Thursday called for a mask mandate that would cover all 50 states, as COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. approach 170,000 and cases continue to rise.

At a campaign event in Wilmington, Del., the presumptive Democratic nominee for president urged governors to be in one accord and require universal use of masks, citing “overwhelming evidence” that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of the deadly disease. Public health experts are almost unanimous in agreeing that masks help curb the transmission of the coronavirus.

“This is not about Democrat, Republican or independent,” he said. “It’s about saving Americans’ lives. So let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide, starting immediately, and we will save lives.”

At a press briefing a few hours later, President Trump inaccurately described Biden’s proposal as a nationwide mandate imposed by federal decree, in contrast to his own approach of leaving it to the states.

More than 20 state leaders have issued mask mandates since the coronavirus began ravaging the country in March, while others have left it up to local officials, typically mayors, to require masks in their communities. Many large retailers, including Target and Costco, are requiring customers to wear masks inside their stores.

But as the virus shows no signs of slowing down, some officials, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have called for a national mask mandate.

The U.S. has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, with 5 million positive cases, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, and about 166,000 deaths.

“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum,” said Biden.

California Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, agreed with him. “That’s what real leadership looks like,” she said.

The president has opposed a national mask mandate, telling Fox News host Chris Wallace in July that he will leave it up to the governors to issue mask orders.

“I want people to have a certain freedom,” he said.

Thumbnail credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP

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