GOP lawmaker: Refusal to wear masks is 'tragic'

GOP lawmaker: Refusal to wear masks is 'tragic'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonProgressives soaring after big primary night Michigan Rep. Fred Upton wins GOP primary The Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks MORE (R-Mich.) on Thursday called it “tragic” to see people object to wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, including at President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month.

“I’m reminding people to wear masks every time they’re with other people outside of their family, particularly in a public place that’s inside,” Upton said at The Hill's Health Reimagined summit. “We just have to do it.”

Upton, who is facing a tough race in November, said he has “encouraged folks to wear masks from Day One.”

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“It’s tragic to see some of these stories of folks who have objected to it — the Tulsa rally, the officers around the country in a variety of states who didn’t believe it — and all of a sudden now they’re passing away, they’re coming down with COVID,” Upton told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

Twenty-two states, including Michigan, have statewide mask orders. Texas, Kansas and West Virginia issued orders within the last week as cases spiked.

Public health officials have urged Americans to wear masks in public, but the issue has become a partisan flashpoint. Most attendees at Trump’s rally in Tulsa did not wear masks, even though they were provided.

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Upton also said at Thursday’s health summit, sponsored by Biosimilars Forum, that he is “encouraged” that Congress will have a constructive, bipartisan discussion on the next coronavirus relief package once lawmakers return from their July 4 recess.

He echoed the White House in saying the package will likely amount to less than $1 trillion, substantially less than the $3 trillion price tag for the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May. Upton voted against that measure.

Upton added that he hopes the next bill includes funding for schools if they are to reopen in the fall, as the administration has demanded this week.

“It’s important that our schools have the resources,” he said. “It’s going to be incumbent upon them to do much more — they’re going to have to have smaller class sizes, probably only a day or two in the class, they got school bus issues, mask issues.”

“Parents are going to be unwilling, I think, to send their kids to school until they know that they’re going to be safe,” he added.