Sanders, Khanna introduce bill to produce face masks for all Americans

Sanders, Khanna introduce bill to produce face masks for all Americans
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Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allocate $5 billion in federal funding to deliver face masks to every American household through the U.S. Postal Service as the nation struggles with rising coronavirus cases in multiple states.

The legislation, which would direct the funds to the domestic production of face masks through the Defense Production Act and other means, was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic Progressive candidate Bush talks about her upset primary win over Rep. Clay MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaSanders supporters launch six-figure ad campaign explaining why they're voting for Biden Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill MORE (D-Calif.), along with more than three dozen Democratic lawmakers. 

“Providing all of our people with high-quality, reusable masks without cost could save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in economic harm,” Sanders said in a statement.

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At a Senate hearing last month, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: Trump to take executive action after coronavirus talks collapse | Vaccine official says he'd resign if pressured politically Fauci's DC neighbors put up 'thank you' signs in their yards Cuomo says New York schools can reopen in-person this fall MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the White House's COVID-19 task force, said he would support any program that made masks more accessible and widely worn.

"There's no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected. So it's people protecting each other," Fauci said in response to a question from Sanders. "Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it is giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of."

Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance urging all Americans to wear face masks to stem the spread of COVID-19 after mounting evidence suggested universal mask-wearing could be extremely effective in containing it.

The lawmakers on Tuesday pointed to a Goldman Sachs analysis that found mask-wearing could result in $1 trillion in the economic benefits through avoidance of strict lockdown measures.

“We are the wealthiest country on earth, yet our health care workers are still facing a shortage of N-95s, our essential workers are having to purchase their own protective face masks, and far too many vulnerable Americans are being left to figure out how to procure this basic need,” Khanna said in a statement, referring to a specific type of mask.

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“Congress has a responsibility to step up where the White House has abdicated its responsibility and ensure every family has the equipment they need to stay safe," he continued. "If we’re asking folks to wear a mask, which is absolutely essential, it’s on us to provide one.” 

In recent weeks, dozens of states and cities have issued mask mandates, though lawmakers argue that unless the government also provides face coverings, those mandates could put some residents at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, others have refused to wear masks where mandates are present, calling them an infringement on personal liberty.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE has said he has no intention of issuing a national mask mandate, preferring to leave that decision to state and local governments.