Mandatory masks? Biden says as president he would require wearing face coverings in public

The presumptive Democratic nominee said he would use all the powers at his disposal to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Image: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden removes his jacket before speaking to families who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act during an event at the Lancaster Recreation Center
The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden prepares to speak to families who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act during an event at the Lancaster Recreation Center on June 25, 2020, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.Joshua Roberts / Getty Images

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden says that if he were president, he would require people across the country to wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The one thing we do know, these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask," the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee said in an interview with the CBS Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA on Thursday.

Biden, who was wearing a mask during the interview and stood a distance away from the reporter and TV camera, said that anyone who wanted to reopen a business would have to ensure that people who walk in would have access to masks.

Asked if he would use his federal leverage to mandate the wearing of masks, the former vice president said, "Yes, I would from an executive standpoint. Yes, I would."

"I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public," Biden said.

During the interview, Biden also dismissed the idea of holding large rallies under the current circumstances because the virus is not under control and a vaccine is not yet available.

Biden's comments come amid a surge in coronavirus cases in a number of states across the country, with some being forced to pause their reopenings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday also said that the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may be 10 times higher than reported.

President Donald Trump, for his part, has declined to wear a mask throughout the pandemic, including during his first campaign rally in months last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which took place inside an arena where supporters were not required to wear masks.

Experts, meanwhile, have been encouraging people to wear masks because it can significantly reduce transmission of the virus and potentially prevent a second wave of the disease. Some Republican leaders, too, have stressed the importance of masks.

Rep. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, a member of the House Republican leadership and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, emphasized the point Friday, tweeting a photo of her father in a cowboy hat and mask along with the message "Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK. #realmenwearmasks."