Coronavirus

What has Biden said about wearing masks in the US?

As the covid-19 infection rate and death toll continues to rise President-elect Joe Biden is taking a very different approach to his predecessor when it comes to coronavirus precautions.

What has Biden said about wearing masks in US?
Joe Raedle Getty Images

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he would begin his presidency by asking Americans to wear a mask for 100 days as the US tries desperately to get the pandemic under control.

The televised exchange with CNN’s Jake Tapper was Biden’s first joint-interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since their election victory.

"The first day I'm inaugurated to say I'm going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days,” he said.

"And I think we'll see a significant reduction if we occur that, if that occurs with vaccinations and masking to drive down the numbers considerably."

Biden makes masks central to his coronavirus response

Throughout the election campaign Biden made clear that he would be focusing on the pandemic response as a top priority, particularly during the early months of his presidency. Mask-wearing in particular is expected to be a central part of his response after an election campaign in which the simple anti-covid precaution incredibly became a partisan issue.

Throughout the campaign President Trump downplayed the importance of mask-wearing, even  mocking Biden for wearing one at times. During the first presidential debate, Trump said: “I don't wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from them and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.”

Throughout the pandemic Trump has refused to put pressure on states to implement their own mask mandates, whereas Biden is eager to encourage mask usage. In a CNN town hall in September Biden pledged to issue an executive order requiring face masks in all federal buildings and on interstate transport; he confirmed on Thursday that he is sticking to that promise.

Why is the 100 days to mask necessary?

Although the vaccine breakthrough has given some cause for optimism, the US is currently in the midst of the most dangerous phase of a coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed over 275,000 American lives. On Thursday, the nationwide totals of 213,830 daily cases and 2,861 daily deaths were both the highest since the pandemic began.

A marked increase in travel around Thanksgiving is likely to have increased the infection rate, although Dr Anthony Fauci fears that the full extent of the resultant spike has not yet been fully felt. He told TODAY: "We don't expect to see the full brunt of it between two and three weeks following Thanksgiving, so I think we have not yet seen the post-Thanksgiving peak,

As we head into the winter months the cold temperatures are expected to increase the infection rate further and hospitals will also see a rise in seasonal illnesses. Like Thanksgiving, despite doctors and viral experts advising against unnecessary travel this Christmas it is thought that there will be an increase in gatherings and more people will catch the virus.

No one knows what the coronavirus picture will be like when Joe Biden takes office on 20 January, but it is safe to assume that widespread mask-wearing will be necessary to help keep Americans safe until the vaccine has been distributed widely.