Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday called for a “national mask-up campaign,” saying it is necessary for everyone, even those in the White House, to wear masks to stem the spread of coronavirus as the number of cases surge across the U.S.
“It’s incumbent on every one of us to mask-up, from the White House, to the state house, everywhere in between,” Whitmer said. “We are seeing this play out across the country. We have to do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The Democrat is the latest elected official to call for a nationwide push on mask-wearing amid a nationwide surge of the virus. New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said during an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday that wearing a mask should be a “national requirement,” and even lawmakers within President Donald Trump’s own party have recently stressed the importance of Americans wearing masks, though he continues to forgo them publicly and refuses to encourage his supporters to do so.
Whitmer told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” that the measure would not only save lives but also help the struggling economy rebound from the virus’ negative impact.
“I’d like a national mask-up campaign. I think that if everyone endorsed this, it’s a simple cost effective thing that we could do to really mitigate spread,” Whitmer said. “But the symbols that come from the very top matter and it changes behavior. If we can take the politics out of mask wearing we can save a lot of lives and in doing so save the pain, the economic pain, that we are feeling across this country.”
White House officials are discussing taking a more active role in encouraging masks as they shift to a strategy of preparing Americans to live long-term with the virus. After appearing at a string of events without social distancing and where masks were scarce, Trump’s campaign said Sunday it would host a New Hampshire campaign rally where attendees will be “provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.”
Trump’s willingness to shift personally on the issue, though, is far from clear.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has previously broken from Trump and encouraged others to wear a mask, doubled down during a news conference in Kentucky on Tuesday. McConnell thanked people at the news conference for wearing masks and said it is the “single most effective thing” Americans can do to protect each other.
“The coronavirus challenge is not over. The single most effective thing we can do not only to protect ourselves but to protect others — It’s not complicated, wear a mask,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Clearly in certain parts of the country people kind of thought it was all over, time to get back to total normal and everything would be OK. Well, it’s not over.”
Asked his thoughts on people largely not wearing masks at Trump’s recent reelection campaign rally, McConnell said, “Yeah, I disagree with that.”
“Look, until we get a vaccine this is not going away. We’re not going to wave a magic wand, it’s going to disappear,” he said. “So the question is what can we all do between now and a vaccine? Put on a mask … also be aware of social distancing.”
Whitmer also said Tuesday that “mixed messaging that’s happened at the federal level” could be one reason many young people seem to be ignoring public health guidance on limiting the spread of the deadly disease.
In Diamond Lake, Michigan, over the July 4 holiday weekend, a large group of maskless people were captured on video at a crowded party, despite warnings from health officials that such gatherings would likely lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.
“The fact of the matter is, every one of those people can be carrying Covid-19 and a lot of them might be without knowing it. And that’s the inherent danger in this moment,” Whitmer said.
Last week, Whitmer banned indoor service at bars throughout most of lower Michigan “following recent outbreaks tied to bars.” Health officials also announced last week that at least 152 coronavirus cases were linked to a bar in East Lansing.
There are more than 2.9 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US and more than 130,000 people have died, according to a Tuesday morning tally by Johns Hopkins University.