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Some Republicans dig in against mask mandate as bipartisan consensus in favor grows

Despite growing bipartisan support for the use of masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, several Republican figures, including President Trump and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, pushed back Sunday on the need for mandating face coverings. 

Reeves, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” questioned the effectiveness of a mandate.

“It’s not about the words you write on the page. [It’s] not about words like mandate,” Reeves said.

The governor signed an executive order requiring masks in 13 counties but has not required them throughout the state, saying compliance has improved in both the 13 counties and the 69 counties to which it did not apply.

Trump, who was first publicly photographed in a mask last week after refusing for months to wear a face covering in public, told Fox News’s Chris Wallace he had no intention of issuing a national mandate.

“I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no,” Trump said in the interview, which aired Sunday.

Trump also pushed back on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield’s projection that the virus could be under control in four to six weeks if everyone wore masks.

“I don’t agree with the statement that if everyone wore a mask, everything disappears,” Trump said, also claiming that he was a “believer in masks” but that they also cause unspecified “problems.”

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) did not rule out a statewide mask mandate but defended the lack of one thus far.

“I don’t think anybody in Ohio who’s watched what I’ve done over the last four months doubts that, you know, I’ll do what we need to do to protect Ohioans,” he said.

Meanwhile, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), both of whom issued statewide mask mandates last week, agreed in appearances on ABC’s “This Week” that masks should not be a partisan issue.

Wearing a mask, Polis said, “makes it less likely that businesses will be shuttered. It makes it less likely that people will die. It makes it more likely school will return. If we care about those things, you’re going to take that as a matter of personal responsibility to protect yourself, protect others, protect our economy.”

Hutchinson, similarly, said mask-wearing “shouldn’t be about politics,” but that he did not support a national mandate. “It is important that they set the national standard, an example.”

Pressed by ABC’s Martha Raddatz on the president’s mixed messaging on the issue, Hutchinson responded, “We need to wear a mask, that example needs to be set by our national leadership.”

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents all say they wear a mask in public all or most of the time, including 96 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) called on Trump to show leadership on the issue in much harsher terms than Hutchinson, specifically slamming the president for waiting so long to be photographed with a mask.

“This was politicized when it should have been unified. We were left on our own when we should have had help,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We know this will be a marathon. Stop telling people this will be over soon … if we don’t come together as a nation with national leadership we will see more people die.”  

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, meanwhile, defended Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, amid a push to sideline him by elements within the Trump administration and said no one had asked him to demote or fire Fauci.

“Nobody has asked me to do that and I find that concept unimaginable,” Collins said. 

Tags Anthony Fauci Chris Wallace Coronavirus Donald Trump Jared Polis

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