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"Our Masks for All legislation will instruct the Trump administration to utilize the Defense Production Act to produce and deliver three high-quality, reusable masks to every person in the country via the U.S. postal system," explains Sanders. "The masks would also be made available free at testing sites, post offices and pharmacies, as well as homeless shelters, jails, detention centers and other congregate-care settings." (Photo: Lucy Lambriex/iStock/via Getty Images)

"Our Masks for All legislation will instruct the Trump administration to utilize the Defense Production Act to produce and deliver three high-quality, reusable masks to every person in the country via the U.S. postal system," explains Sanders. "The masks would also be made available free at testing sites, post offices and pharmacies, as well as homeless shelters, jails, detention centers and other congregate-care settings." (Photo: Lucy Lambriex/iStock/via Getty Images)

The Science Is Clear: Our 'Masks for All' Plan Will Save Lives

The coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control under Trump's leadership, but there are common sense solutions we must urgently implement.

Bernie Sanders

 by USA Today

It is an absolute tragedy, and embarrassing, that the United States is practically the only major country where the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening by the day. Coronavirus has killed 150,000 Americans. States like California, Texas and Florida are registering their highest daily death tolls ever. The economic horrors of this pandemic are also escalating, as our gross domestic product plunges by an annual rate of nearly 33% and $600 weekly unemployment benefits expired for 30 million workers.

If we are to have any hope of turning this economy around, opening schools safely, and preventing countless more deaths, we must first get this virus under control. That is why, in late July, with 14 other senators and dozens of United States representatives, I introduced common-sense, practical and inexpensive legislation to protect Americans during the coronavirus pandemic: Masks for All.

"Providing high quality masks for all is an effective disease prevention tool that must be immediately implemented. Every day we delay, lives are needlessly lost."

This legislation will substantially increase the production of high-quality masks in this country and distribute three reusable masks to every single person at no cost—including the many who have never owned a mask. It will also end our dependency on China and other countries for this life-saving product now and in the future. 

The science is clear: Wearing a mask not only saves lives, but the widespread use of masks will get Americans back to work sooner and reunite families who have stayed apart.

The experts agree

This is not a political or a partisan issue. In fact, in a recent Senate health committee hearing, I asked Trump administration experts whether they agreed with my Masks for All proposal. Dr. Anthony Fauci replied, “There’s no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected. So it’s people protecting each other,” he said. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it is giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of."

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has agreed. “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think over the next four, six to eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control," he said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It's time we finally listen to our public health experts. Doctors Fauci and Redfield understand that evidence is mounting from around the world that wearing masks curbs the spread of COVID-19 and saves lives. South Korea, one of the more successful countries to date, began procuring masks as early as February and provided them affordably to its people. Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Germany, Vietnam and dozens of other countries have shown us that COVID-19 spread can be contained with widespread mask wearing.

Only when the virus is contained can the economy be revived. One estimate suggested that widespread use of masks could be worth up to $1 trillion to our economy by preventing shutdowns and getting people back to work earlier. And in terms of public health, the act of mask wearing, as simple as it is, is a matter of life and death. One projection predicts that universal use of masks could save more than 30,000 American lives by Nov. 1, as compared to our current trajectory.

Distributing masks nationwide

Unfortunately, with the Trump administration incapable of acting in a competent and scientific manner, Congress—in a bipartisan way—must take the lead. Our Masks for All legislation will instruct the Trump administration to utilize the Defense Production Act to produce and deliver three high-quality, reusable masks to every person in the country via the U.S. postal system. The masks would also be made available free at testing sites, post offices and pharmacies, as well as homeless shelters, jails, detention centers and other congregate-care settings.

The first priority would, of course, be front-line health care workers. It is beyond comprehension that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, doctors and nurses continue to lack enough high quality personal protective equipment they need to protect their lives and their patients. This legislation directs the government to produce and provide the needed surgical masks and N-95 respirators to all health workers in the country. It will also prioritize the needs of other essential workers.

This legislation will not only increase the availability of masks, but also the quality. With large-scale production and strong research and development, within months, we will be able to produce and distribute masks that are high quality, comfortable, easy to fit, and washable for continued use. These high-quality masks will protect both the wearer as well as the people they come into contact with.

The American people are with us. One recent poll found that 3 in 4 Americans—including 58% of Republicans—support requiring mask wearing outside the home. The majority of U.S. states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have passed mask mandates. It is only fair that the federal government now steps in to make these requirements as easy, effective and costless as possible for the American people.

Given the urgency of the moment this bill should be passed as quickly as possible by being incorporated into major coronavirus legislation currently being negotiated. Providing high quality masks for all is an effective disease prevention tool that must be immediately implemented. Every day we delay, lives are needlessly lost.

In this unprecedented moment in American history we need to come together—government and private sector, manufacturers and workers, scientists and ordinary citizens—to combat this horrific pandemic. Making sure that every American has a high-quality mask, and wears it, is an important step forward in achieving that goal.


© 2021 USA Today

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. Sanders ran to become the Democratic Party presidential nominee in both 2016 and 2020 and remains the longest-serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

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