Cases of COVID-19 are surging and this has prompted many areas to issue mask mandates. However, some leaders across the country are still refusing to make them mandatory in public places. This is worrisome since there is mounting evidence showing that they benefit everyone, including the person wearing it. With science backing the value of masks, some wonder why there isn’t a national directive regarding their utilization.
It comes down to the message that the White House has put forth since the beginning of the pandemic, which is that any restrictions imposed should be done at the local level. In an interview on Fox News yesterday, President Trump said that he was a “believer” in masks, it’s important to note that he wore a mask for the first time on July 11th, but he would “leave it up to the governors” when it comes to declaring decrees about. Since many Americans feel that mask requirements are an infringement on civil liberties and individual freedom, some state leaders are resisting implementing them.
Public health officials are trying to encourage mask use, including members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, these officials are concerned that the issue of wearing masks has become so politicized that it’s hindering the response to the virus. Unfortunately, many officials, including the President and the majority of Republicans, haven’t been overly supportive of the initiative and this has fueled the tension surrounding the matter. The director of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Dr. Francis Collins, said in an interview on the program “Meet the Press” that, “Our best chance is for all of us to get together and do the right thing, and stop fighting so much about the divide between different political perspectives, which is just getting in the way.”
Besides not supporting a national mask mandate, the Trump administration is trying to prevent additional funding for testing, contact tracing and to supplement federal health agencies in the next relief measure. In a draft of a proposal by Senate Republicans, they’ve earmarked $25 billion in grants to states for conducting testing and contact tracing, about $10 billion for the CDC, about $15 billion for the NIH and $5.5 billion to the State Department and $20 billion to the Pentagon to help counter the virus outbreak and possibly distribute a vaccine. It’s key to keep in mind that these are estimates and the final dollar figures aren’t set as of now. Instead of these amounts, officials in the Administration don’t want funding for testing or the nation’s top health agencies and to reduce the Pentagon funding to $5 billion.
Many political officials, including several Republicans, were upset with the White House’s suggestions due to the current situation of the virus and the impact it’s having. Congress is trying to come to a decision quickly on the next relief package because unemployment benefits and several other aid measures are going to expire at the end of the month. The goal is to get to a solution by this week, but the challenges of getting the next bill completed have increased since Republicans want a smaller bill than Democrats, but not as small as the ideas from the Administration.