Joe Biden on Thursday called on governors across the U.S. to issue mask-wearing mandates to stem the spread of COVID-19.
"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum," Biden told reporters at a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, with his newly minted running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. "Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing," he added.
"It’s not about your rights, it’s about your responsibilities," Biden said.
"When I get occasionally confronted by a person in public about wearing a mask, I say, 'look, this is America, be a patriot, protect your fellow citizens.'" Biden said. "Step up, do the right thing."
The event with Harris was their second public appearance together this week after Biden announced on Tuesday that he had chosen his running mate. The pair used the event Thursday to focus exclusively on their proposed coronavirus pandemic response.
Though Biden has previously called for nationwide mask-wearing mandates, that he would use his second ever event with Harris to reiterate the message underscores the role the pandemic is likely to pay in his campaign. His directive comes in contrast to President Donald Trump, who has shied away from such a mandate and only recently begun to consistently support mask-wearing.
Biden compared wearing a mask to other efforts Americans were taking to help out those stricken by the virus, like giving blood and donating to food banks. He said his team of medical experts had advised him that nationwide mask mandates could save "over 40,000 lives" over the next three months.
There have been more than 5.2 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. since the pandemic broke out, including 167,000 deaths.
Biden chastised Trump for his administration’s slow crawl to supporting mask-wearing, saying "I hope the president has learned the lesson."
Following Biden’s remarks, Harris took the stage to attempt to further draw the contrast between the presumptive Democratic nominee and Trump.
"That’s what real leadership looks like," she said. "We just witnessed real leadership."
Harris added that, when it comes to a possible vaccine, "there may be some grand gestures offered by the current president about a vaccine, but it doesn’t really matter until you can answer the question 'when am I going to get vaccinated.'"
Trump criticized Biden at Thursday's White House press briefing.
"He wants the president of the United States with the mere stroke of a pen to order over 300 million American citizens to wear a mask for a minimum of three straight months," Trump said. "He thinks it’s good politics I guess."
Trump added, "He does not identify what authority the president has to issue such a mandate or how federal law enforcement could possibly enforce it or why we would be stepping on governors throughout our country."
“To Joe, I would say stop playing politics with the virus," said Trump, who has suggested, without offering any evidence, that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day.
Both Biden and Harris wore masks while watching the other speak.
Prior to their remarks, Biden and Harris were briefed privately on the pandemic by a group of public health experts and doctors.