WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Thursday called for a nationwide mask mandate in the United States to curb coronavirus contagion.
"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months at a minimum," Biden told a news conference. "Let's institute a mask mandate nationwide starting immediately and we will save lives."
The former vice president said the measure could save more than 40,000 lives in the next three months, and noted that more than 165,000 people have died already in the U.S.
"It didn't have to be this way," Biden said, adding that if President Donald Trump had acted earlier, thousands of fatalities could have been avoided.
Biden was speaking at his second public appearance with his newly selected running mate, Kamala Harris, after the pair was briefed on the coronavirus by public health experts.
"What real leadership looks like is Joe Biden," Harris said. "To speak up, sometimes telling us the stuff that we don't necessarily want to hear, but need to know."
She laid out their administration's plan to combat the pandemic if elected, including setting up a testing board to distribute millions of testing kits, and building a public health jobs corps to focus on contact tracing.
Trump slammed the proposal as "playing politics with the virus" and issued weak support for wearing masks, which is widely supported by public health experts.
They would also guarantee every U.S. citizen equal access to a vaccine by investing $25 billion in manufacturing and distribution, the California senator said.
Trump long resisted pushing for widespread mask usage. While he more recently claimed to be a "believer in masks," he has left it up to state authorities whether to mandate mask-wearing.
(c)2020 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)
Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.