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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 SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally 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 FauciUS COVID-19 cases reach past 13 million Fauci: Pandemic likely won't improve by Christmas, New Year's Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden 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 TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE has said he has no intention of issuing a national mask mandate, preferring to leave that decision to state and local governments.