Governors urge Pence to promote mask-wearing

Two governors urged Vice President Pence last week to adopt stronger messaging to encourage Americans to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) and at least one other governor asked Pence on Friday to promote mask-wearing as several states see new outbreaks of the virus, according to multiple sources on a call between the vice president and governors. Two sources said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Hochul makes New York the 31st state to have had a female governor New Mexico indoor mask mandate returns with new vaccine requirements MORE (D) also brought up messaging on masks.

The sources said the governors were not seeking a national mandate on mask-wearing, but for Pence and President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE to offer a more direct and unified message on the practice.

ADVERTISEMENT

In response, Pence echoed recent comments in which he encouraged face coverings when social distancing was not possible and deferred to state and local guidance, according to an administration official.

Public health officials have pointed to the use of facial coverings as one of the most basic and effective ways to cut down on transmission of the coronavirus. But masks have been subject to a partisan divide amid the pandemic, as Trump and some Republicans have been reluctant to explicitly direct citizens to wear them.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push On The Money — GOP blocks spending bill to kick off chaotic week in congress Overnight Health Care — Presented by Alrtia — Booster shots get bipartisan rollout MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday said there must not be a "stigma" around wearing a mask.

Governors in Arizona, Florida and Texas, among other states, have resisted calls to require masks statewide, though local officials have done so as new outbreaks of the virus emerge. The city of Jacksonville, Fla., which will host the Republican National Convention in August, issued guidance on Monday that made masks mandatory when in public or indoors.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciApproval by Halloween to vaccinate kids could offer a truly thankful Thanksgiving season Trump on what would prevent 2024 bid: 'I guess a bad call from a doctor' Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs MORE, the government's top infectious diseases expert, told governors on Monday's call that public health measures to contain the virus do not have to be "all or nothing," though he is among those who have encouraged Americans, and young people in particular, to follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks.

ADVERTISEMENT

The president has yet to wear a mask publicly, though he did wear one behind the scenes during a tour of a Ford factory in late May. White House officials have gone as far as to ease requirements that staff in the West Wing wear masks, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that face coverings are recommended but not required.

"It’s his choice to wear a mask. It’s the personal choice of any individual as to wear a mask or not," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Monday when asked if Trump would comply with the Jacksonville measure. "He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety. But he did say to me he has no problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you."

The vice president has more commonly worn a mask when traveling, particularly after he faced criticism for not wearing one during a trip to the Mayo Clinic in April.

Pence was asked at a coronavirus task force briefing on Friday about his message to Americans on masks and did not directly encourage them to wear one, instead saying "the first principle is people ought to listen to their state and local authorities."

The vice president was more direct during a trip to Texas over the weekend, saying at a briefing alongside Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that residents should "wear a mask wherever it's indicated or wherever you're not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus."

ADVERTISEMENT

"When the governor and I talked this week, we talked about the importance, in this moment, of calling on people across Texas: Wear a mask," Pence said Sunday.

Pence will travel this week to Arizona and Florida to meet with their respective governors as both states see significant surges in coronavirus cases.

Reid Wilson contributed

Updated at 3:53 p.m.