The federal government would withhold COVID-19 relief from states which do not require people to wear masks under an amendment proposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Feinstein said in a statement that she plans to formally introduce the amendment to the next COVID-19 stimulus bill in the Senate. She called on fellow lawmakers to support the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he plans to introduce the next stimulus bill by the end of the month.
“At that time, I intend to offer an amendment to prohibit sending funds to states that haven’t adopted a statewide mask requirement,” Feinstein said.
“The situation is getting worse daily. Several states including California, Alabama and Montana already require masks in public. This should be universal. My hope has been that other governors would show the leadership to institute their own mask mandates, but so far that hasn’t happened,” she added. “It’s time for Congress to step in. This is a matter of life or death, and partisan politics shouldn’t play a role.”
President Donald Trump left it up to individual governors to decide on the measures mean to stop the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, commonly known as the coronavirus. Some governors, including California’s Gavin Newsom (D) and New York’s Andrew Cuomo (D) have mandated masks. Others, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) have resisted doing so. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) recently ordered people in most counties to wear masks after resisting such calls earlier.
Kemp has also taken legal action to block local officials who implement such mandates.
Those governors’ efforts fly in the face of federal health officials’ advice, including that from Surgeon General Jerome Adams who said Sunday that the United States could reverse its upward trend of new coronavirus cases were more Americans to “do their part,” including wearing masks in public.
During the early stages of the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization advised against masks. Since then, both organizations changed course and now recommend masks.
A review of scientific studies (pdf) released in April found the while there were no randomized control trials showing direct evidence that masks can help stop the spread of the CCP virus, a growing number of studies and case reports showed indirect evidence that masks can help.
“The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts,” the scientists concluded. “We recommend that public officials and governments strongly encourage the use of widespread face masks in public, including the use of appropriate regulation.”
A similar review published in The Lancet in June likewise found no randomized control trials on the effectiveness of masks, but concluded, based on 44 comparative observational studies, that “face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.”
According to University of California San Francisco epidemiologist George Rutherford, people can still catch COVID-19 through the membranes of their eyes, a risk that cannot be mitigated by wearing a face mask.