Arkansas governor urges 'consistent national message' on wearing masks

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Friday said there needs to be a “consistent national message” from President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE on wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked the governor on his show if it would be easier to encourage constituents in Arkansas to wear face coverings if the president also actively promoted them. 

“A consistent national message supporting the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing is very important to making sure everybody understands the importance of it,” Hutchinson said. “Nothing beats leadership. Certainly it's important to convey the importance of that.”

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Hutchinson added that the president is right in wanting to reopen the national economy but added, “You also have to have the message of taking the right health care precautions.”

Vice President Pence was asked on Friday about the politicization of mask-wearing during the White House coronavirus task force's first briefing in nearly two months.

Pence, who did not wear a mask at the briefing, said people should follow the advice of their local health officials.

He listed ways Americans can protect themselves and others against the coronavirus — hand-washing, avoiding touching the face, disinfecting frequently — but pointedly did not refer to the two main protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing.

Pence also defended the Trump campaign's decision to hold large events amid the pandemic, despite the federal government’s own guidelines against holding large indoor gatherings.

"The freedom of speech, the right to peaceably assemble is enshrined in the Constitution in the United States, and we have an election coming up this fall," Pence said.

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Wearing a mask has become a political issue in recent months, despite the insistence of the Trump administration’s top health officials. Several federal health officials, including coronavirus task force members Deborah Birx and Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump breaks with Fauci: US in 'good place' in fight against virus Health care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states Overnight Health Care: Trump says White House will pressure governors to open schools | Administration formally moves to withdraw US from WHO | Fauci warns against 'false complacency' on COVID-19 MORE, wore masks except when speaking at the briefing Friday.

Multiple Democratic governors have issued mandates at the state level for wearing masks, though Trump himself has refused to wear a face covering in public, sparking bipartisan criticism

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide The Hill's Morning Report - Trump lays low as approval hits 18-month low House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the House, urged people to wear a mask on Friday by tweeting a picture of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing one.

She added the hashtag “#realmenwearmasks.”

Arkansas has reported 18,740 cases of the coronavirus and currently has 284 people hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to figures released Friday by the state health department. Nearly 250 people have died from the coronavirus in the state.