White House chief of staff dismisses need for federal mandate on masks

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White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Monday that a national mandate requiring Americans to wear masks was “not in order” as coronavirus cases rise in a number of states.

Meadows told “Fox & Friends” that the decision to require masks is a “state-to-state issue” and echoed President Trump in attributing the rise in coronavirus cases, in part, to increased testing capacity.

“As we look across the country, obviously, the narrative is the COVID cases are rising, but testing is rising exponentially. We’ve now tested almost 10 percent of our country and when we look at masks and wearing a mask, that’s done on a location basis when you can’t have social distancing,” Meadows said when asked if a federal mandate was necessary.

“But certainly, a national mandate is not in order. We’re allowing our governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that,” Meadows continued.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the use of face masks in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Several governors have ordered the use of face masks in some capacity in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) became the latest to do so last Thursday when he issued an executive order requiring Texans in counties with more than 20 cases to wear a face covering in a commercial setting or public buildings or in outdoor settings when social distancing is not possible, with some exceptions. Texas is among the states that have seen a significant rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that health experts say cannot be attributed to increased testing alone.

Trump, who has resisted wearing a mask publicly, said last week that he was in favor of the use of face masks but expressed doubt that a national mandate was necessary because in some parts of the country people stay a “very long distance” away from one another.

Vice President Pence has consistently stated that the federal government would defer to states on their policies with respect to mask-wearing.

“We believe that Americans should wear a mask whenever state and local authorities indicate that it’s appropriate, or whenever social distancing is not possible. And we’ll continue to convey that message,” Pence told reporters last week.

Monday’s television interview marked Meadows’s first since vacating his congressional seat and taking over as chief of staff at the beginning of April.

Meadows also said that the Trump campaign’s decision to encourage mask use at an upcoming rally in New Hampshire is “more a factor of precaution” so that people feel safe.

The outdoor rally, announced by the campaign on Sunday, will take place this Saturday. The campaign is expected to distribute masks to attendees but not require that they be worn and provide access to hand sanitizer, similar to what was done during the president’s rally in Tulsa in June. The campaign said Sunday that attendees would be strongly encouraged to wear masks.  

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mark Meadows mask order Mike Pence

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