Over the past week, several leading public health experts have voiced their support for Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s call for a mask mandate in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Biden first called for a mask mandate during his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president at the DNC this summer. Although there were initial concerns over whether a president would have the authority to impose such a mandate, Biden’s legal team eventually determined it would be feasible “based upon the degree to which there’s a crisis... and how bad things are for the country.”
In September, the Democratic candidate said that as president, he would at the very least put pressure on governors and local officials to impose a mask mandate. As president, Biden could also mandate masks on all federal property and use his authority under federal transit law to require masks on public transportation.
When asked about the prospect of a mask mandate on CNBC this Wednesday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said he was in favor of it, but didn’t think the Trump White House would issue a national mandate. (Duh.)
“You’re using the word ‘mandating masks’ — yes if that works, let’s do it. I don’t think it’s going to happen nationally,” he said. “It may not come from the White House to do it and if it doesn’t, then I think that the mayors and the governors should do it.”
In addition to Dr. Fauci, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb also said recently that it was time to seriously consider a national mask mandate in order to help curb the spread of the virus. Experts have been saying for months that evidence shows face masks can help curb the transmission of respiratory viruses like the one that causes covid-19, and some argue that even when mask-wearing doesn’t stop infection, it could still reduce the severity of the illness. A recent study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated that “universal mask use” (when 95% of people wear masks) could prevent up to 130,000 deaths related to covid-19 in the coming months.
However, Biden has also conceded that considering the current climate surrounding masks in the U.S., it’s likely that a presidential order for all Americans to wear masks would most certainly face a legal challenge. But it certainly couldn’t hurt.