Despite having by far the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, the US response to the pandemic has been surprisingly lax at times. Democrat Joe Biden, who is challenging incumbent President Donald Trump, wants a much stronger approach.
What Biden is saying
Biden called on all US governors to issue a 3-month mask-wearing mandate, arguing that it will allow them to open businesses and schools sooner.
“Every single American should be wearing a mask, when they’re outside for the next three months, at a minimum. Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing,” Biden said after a coronavirus briefing he received with his running mate, Kamala Harris.
The position is markedly different from that of Trump, whose support for face masks has come half-heartedly, after months of denying the usefulness of masks. Biden has been consistently wearing a mask and encouraging others to do the same.
However, this is the first time that he’s addressed a national mandate for wearing face masks.
“We absolutely need a clear message from the very top of our federal government that everyone needs to wear a mask in public, period,” he said.
“It’s not about your rights; it’s about your responsibilities,” Biden said. He tried to present the issue as a matter of patriotism to protect fellow Americans.
Why this matters
We don’t know who will be US president in 2021, but whether it’s Trump or Biden, it will almost certainly have a big impact in how the country deals with the pandemic.
The positions of the two candidates on face masks are very different, with Trump firmly rejecting a national mask mandate because he wants a “certain freedom” for Americans, adding that “I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask everything disappears.”
In the US, face masks have been heavily politicized. Although most Americans say they wear a face mask in public, there are clear divides down the political line, with Democrats being much more likely to support wearing face masks than Republicans.
Election day is November 3. Whoever the next president may be, his task will be to unite rather than divide American people and deploy a coordinated, energetic response to the pandemic. The virus has no political color, and it’s bound to cause more problems come autumn and wintertime.
While cases have somewhat stabilized in the US, the disease burden caused by the coronavirus will be compounded by the flu season and other infectious diseases.
CDC director Robert Redfield warned in a WebMD interview on Wednesday that America is bracing for “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had.”
“When you ask me what Thanksgiving’s going to be like, I think it’s just dependent on how the American people choose to respond,” Dr. Redfield said. If people follow the CDC’s social distancing and hygiene recommendations and get their flu shots, “it will bring this [COVID-19] outbreak down,” he said.