WASHINGTON (TIP): As COVID-19 infections continue to surge across America and nearly 30 states impose public mask-wearing requirements, Indian American Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and over three dozen of their Democratic colleagues in the Senate and House introduced lifesaving legislation July 28 to manufacture and distribute high-quality, reusable masks to everyone in America.
“If we can afford a $740 billion defense budget, we can afford to send every American a face mask,” said Rep. Khanna. “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. 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. If we’re asking folks to wear a mask, which is absolutely essential, it’s on us to provide one.”
“We are the only high-income country in the world where infections and deaths are skyrocketing instead of falling. Nearly 150,000 are dead and 1,000 more are dying every day. That is an absolute scandal,” said Sen. Sanders. “Dozens of my colleagues and I are proposing that we do what our public health experts and scientists say we must do. This is not a political or partisan issue. 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.”
According to one estimate, widespread mask wearing could save over 40,000 American lives by November 1, while another analysis predicted $1 trillion in the economic benefits of mask wearing through avoidance of strict lockdown measures. In questioning by Sanders at a recent Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci voiced his support for the proposal, echoing the consensus of the medical community. “There’s no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected. So it’s people protecting each other,” Fauci said. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it is giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of.”
This proposal, developed in consultation with health experts including Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Obama, would use the United States Postal Service to distribute three free, reusable masks to every person in the country, including individuals who are experiencing homelessness or living in group settings such as prisons, shelters, college dorms, and assisted living facilities.