Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden effectively called for a nationwide mask mandate to be put in place for the rest of the year.
Biden, former vice president to Barack Obama, spoke at a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday alongside his recently announced vice-presidential pick Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). In remarks lasting about three minutes, Biden called on governors to put mask mandates in place for at least three months and attacked President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.
“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside for the next three months at a minimum. Every governor should mandate mandatory mask wearing,” Biden said, later adding, “And it’s not about your rights, it’s about your responsibilities as an American.”
“Wearing a mask will give the life of a clerk in your local store or your letter carrier, your child’s teacher. It will increase their prospects of not contracting the virus. Even though it’s uncomfortable, we’re not used to it, wearing a mask is going to get our kids back to school sooner and safer,” Biden continued. “Every American wearing a mask outdoors is going to get our businesses back and to full strength long term.”
Biden went on to claim that Trump could have saved tens of thousands of lives had earlier action been taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Notably, almost no politician or official was calling for coordinated action to combat the virus until mid-March when governors began instituting heavy-handed lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus.
Biden has also praised Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, saying his actions amid the pandemic are a national “lesson in leadership.” Cuomo has overseen one of the hardest hit states in the nation, and has come under intense scrutiny over a controversial policy that forced infected coronavirus patients into nursing homes, potentially spreading the virus among those most vulnerable to it.
“If the president had acted sooner, we’d have saved – just one week earlier, we’d have saved 30-some thousand lives. Two weeks earlier I think it was 51,000 or 57,000 lives. I hope we’ve learned our lesson. I hope the president has learned the lesson,” Biden said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear masks in “public settings” because “a mask may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.”
The guidance around masks has shifted substantially since the start of the pandemic in mid-March. Public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, admittedly “downplayed” the efficacy of masks during the early weeks of the pandemic before recommending their widespread use.
“We wanted to make sure that the people, namely the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in [harm’s way], to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected,” Fauci said in June.
The CDC updated its guidance on masks as recently as last week to warn that masks with one-way valves or vents do not stop transmission of the coronavirus, and so are not recommended.