Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on stage to deliver remarks following a coronavirus briefing. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris called on Thursday for every governor to mandate mask-wearing in public for at least the next three months, citing studies that say it would save more than 40,000 lives and speed the nation’s economic recovery.
“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,” Biden said. “Even though it’s uncomfortable, and we’re not used to it, wearing a mask is going to get our kids back to school sooner and safer. Every American wearing a mask outdoors is going to get our businesses back and to full strength.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee set up a health advisory board several months ago and has been getting regular briefings, but this was the first time Harris joined him. They heard from former government health officials and public health experts on a range of topics, including how to safely bring kids back to the classroom, how to distribute a vaccine if and when one should emerge, and how to address the deep racial disparities in health exacerbated by the pandemic. Those briefing Biden and Harris including former FDA commissioner David Kessler, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and former HHS assistant secretary Nicole Lurie.
In his remarks, Biden sought to portray masks, which have become deeply politicized and opposed by conservative lawmakers as an abridgement of freedom, as a virtuous act that bridges the partisan divide.
“Americans are lining up to give blood. Americans volunteer all their time for food banks and local charities, supporting their neighbors when they’re in need. Well, this is no different,” he said. “Be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens. Protect your fellow citizens. Step up. Do the right thing. Do the right thing.”
Biden did not say whether he would implement a national mask mandate if elected and, if so, how it would be enforced. For the moment, he called on all governors to impose such policies.
Currently, only 35 states require masks in public, though many individual cities and counties have their own mandates in effect in the remaining states.
Biden and Harris each removed their masks when they spoke, separately and alone at the podium. Both quickly put their masks back on after their remarks.