Sanders unveils bill to provide masks to all Americans, says it’s ‘a no-brainer’

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First came "Medicare-for-all." Now, it's masks for all.

Declaring that “Masks save lives, period,” Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday introduced a bill that would provide masks to every American amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today I am introducing legislation to provide high-quality, reusable masks to every person in this country free of charge. This is a no-brainer,” the populist lawmaker from Vermont and former two-time presidential candidate announced on Twitter.

The independent senator who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate stressed that the U.S. is “the only major country where coronavirus infections and deaths are skyrocketing. That is beyond disgraceful. Providing all of our people with free, high-quality, reusable masks will help save tens of thousands of lives. We need #MasksforAll.”

The legislation has dozens of Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, as well as backing from some unions and progressive groups. Rep. Ro Khanna of California – who was a co-chair of Sanders 2020 presidential campaign – is the bill’s lead sponsor in the House.

The measure would call on the United States Postal Service to deliver the masks to Americans. They could also be made available at pick-up sites across the country, and would be provided free of charge. Health care workers – who’ve had difficulties in obtaining personal protective equipment – would be given surgical masks and N-95 respirators.

The bill would make use of the Defense Production Act – which has been used infrequently by President Trump since the coronavirus swept the nation in March – to induce private industries to help in what would be an enormous effort to produce masks for the entire national population.

Putting aside his long-time reluctance to wear a mask or urge Americans to mask up to prevent the spread of the virus, last week the president stressed “whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.” He later acknowledged, “I’m getting used to the mask.”

The president’s change of course comes as new COVID-19 cases have soared the past two months and many states have reversed or paused moves to lift coronavirus restrictions.

Public health officials – from the White House coronavirus task force all the way down to the local level – have urged the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of the virus, which causes the deadly COVID-19 disease.

Over half of all states have some forms of requirements mandating masks – but most have not taken actions to provide those masks to the public.

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