The status quo isn’t working; infections have doubled over the last 6 weeks
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to provide every American with three free high-quality, reusable face masks is a great idea for an obvious reason: In a nation with more than 4.4 million people known to be infected by the coronavirus, and more than 150,000 people killed by COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, it’s plain the public health response to the pandemic needs sharp improvement.
“We are the only high-income country in the world where infections and deaths are skyrocketing instead of falling,” Sanders said in a statement.
Masks matter. And invoking the Defense Production Act to compel a U.S. company or companies to mass manufacture them, as Sanders proposes, would ensure more people — especially those who are poor, homeless or living in group settings such as prisons, shelters, college dorms and assisted living facilities — had a useful tool against the virus. The cost would be trivial compared to the economic damage caused by broad, additional shutdowns.
Also, Americans might get the message, once and for all, that masks are a public health necessity not a political statement if Congress approved it in a landslide and President Donald Trump signed it. Since Trump told the Wall Street Journal on June 18 that many people wore masks to show their opposition to him, the number of infected Americans doubled.
In the nations that have the pandemic under much better control, masks have played a crucial role. It’s not too late for Americans to grasp this plain truth and act on it. The coronavirus threat won’t recede without more consistent mask use.
— SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE