Voices from across the aisle are calling for social distancing measures, including masks, to stay in place and be strictly observed. July is projected to be a major tipping point in the spread of the virus. With this, masks and physical distancing will be a key factor in the growth of US cases. The White House has traced a complicated history on support for masks. However, it seems to be coming around or at least leaving it to individual states.
McConnell: Masks “Must Have no Stigma”
Mandatory masks in public have proven to be a controversial topic for many conservatives, who see the measure as impinging on their liberties and blowing the coronavirus issue out of proportion. Mitch McConnell sought to lead conservatives on the mask issue.
From the Senate floor, McConnell said, “Mr. President, until we have a safe and effective vaccine, it will remain all of our jobs as American citizen to help our nation settle into a middle ground between unsustainable emergency lockdowns and our normal life from before all this started. In short, we cannot go back to April and we cannot go back to normal.”
He went on to say, “We must have no stigma about wearing masks when we leave our homes and when we’re near other people. Wearing face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter.”
While McConnell was never overtly anti-mask, these are perhaps his most direct and insistent calls for masks and social distancing. His speech reinforces a growing bipartisan consensus: we must reopen with smart measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.
Conservative Governors Closing Back Up
Just a few weeks after reopening, Arizona is shuttering once again. Republican governor Doug Ducey has order for amusement parks, movie theaters, bars and gyms to close for 30 days. The move is in response to a surge in cases in Arizona, one of several states that are grappling with a newfound rise in cases.
The decision to close these nonessential businesses marks another break from the GOP’s preference for opening the economy. In Florida, Governor DeSantis is prohibiting the sale of alcohol in bars, and also requiring face masks in public indoor places at all times.
As cases surge, the decision to stay open becomes harder. Ultimately, the answer lies where it always has: staying open, and being smart. Businesses can stay open if social distancing and hygienic measures are implemented and strictly observed.
Vice President Pence: Leave it to the Governors
Early on in Trump’s presidency, the White House did not endorse wearing masks and even said the president wouldn’t do it. The idea seemed to be that masks would create a sense of panic. Today, while still not pushing the idea as hard as McConnell, the Trump Administration seems to be coming around.
Vice President Pence indicated that while the White House is no longer anti-mask, it will not pursue wearing a mask as a legal obligation. When asked about a federal mandate for face coverings in all public places, Pence said, “One of the elements of the genius of America is the principle of federalism, of state and local control We’ve made it clear that we want to defer to governors. We want to defer to local officials, and people should listen to them.”
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