WASHINGTON, DC — Despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of Americans are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, giving rise to concerns about continued spread of the coronavirus as the country already is suffering a terrible surge of cases and deaths. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today announced introduction of the Encouraging Masks for All Act, legislation that would encourage states to require the use of face masks in all public spaces and outside when one cannot maintain social distance. The legislation provides an additional $5 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund available to states who implement masking requirements. States can use this additional funding for efforts to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Additionally, the legislation authorizes $75 million for grants to states for promotion of universal mask wearing. The legislation also mandates mask use on federal property. Recent research suggests universal masking could prevent 130,000 deaths from COVID-19. Nonetheless, 15 states do not have mask mandates.
“Masks and face coverings are the essential public health tool to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Markey. “As President-elect Biden recognizes, we need to use every technique available to us to encourage mask use, from clear communication of the need for masks, to providing masks to those who need them, to leading by example, and even to mandating mask use nationwide. Our legislation would move us closer to goal of ensuring universal mask adoption during these dangerous winter months. It would also ensure that essential workers in transit, health care, and retail settings all over the country are protected with face masks. Mask up!”
“Wearing a mask should be considered a moral and health mandate—our primary defense against the coronavirus,” said Senator Blumenthal. “With cases skyrocketing as we head into the holidays, the Encouraging Masks for All Act would bring us closer to ensuring every American has a face mask and wears it. Even with a vaccine, mask wearing is an essential tool in conquering COVID-19, along with physical distancing and other common sense public health steps. This bill gives states the resources to encourage mask wearing in public and outdoors, to provide masks to those who need them, and to enforce mask mandates to protect public health.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
According to the CDC, face coverings are “the most powerful public health tool” we have to slow transmission of the coronavirus, and “we have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defense.” Use of face coverings is supported by numerous scientific studies and can serve to help slow outbreaks of coronavirus.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal have repeatedly called on the Trump administration to mandate masks on airplanes and provide personal protective equipment to flight crew during the pandemic. In October, the Senate unanimously passed the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act, legislation that creates a joint airline task force responsible for developing health and safety recommendations for air travel during the pandemic.
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