After months of the Trump administration not telling Americans to wear face masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that the they “encourage everyone” in areas with large outbreaks to use a mask.
Pence, who has worn a mask off and on since April 3, when the Centers for Disease Control first recommended it as a way to slow transmission of COVID-19, spoke Sunday about the need to wear masks during a briefing with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Both men wore them until they started the briefing, which was focused on the need for masks in Texas, where new COVID-19 cases have soared to about 6,000 a day after the state reopened in late May.
“If your local officials, in consultation with the state, are directing you to wear a mask, we encourage everyone to wear a mask in the affected areas. And where you can’t maintain social distancing, wearing a mask is just a good idea,” Pence said. “And it will, we know, from experience, will slow the spread of the coronavirus.”
New research has found that wearing a mask is up to 77 percent effective in lowering the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Later that day, though, Pence led an indoor rally at First Baptist Church in Dallas with around 2,200 people. Face masks were “strongly encouraged,” a directive that about half of the attendees followed, according to pool reports, but a choir of over 100 people sang without them.
Choirs are considered a “superspreader event,” according to the CDC, as singing expels respiratory droplets to people in close proximity, which is the main way COVID-19 can spread. One of the first COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. was at a choir practice in Washington state held on March 10. In the weeks after, 53 out of the 61 singers tested positive for the virus, and two died.
The Trump administration has said that they will leave it up to individual states and local governments to require masks. Several states — including Arizona, Utah and North Carolina — have enacted mask requirements after resisting them earlier.
On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who started requiring masks in the state on April 15 — called on President Donald Trump to issue an executive order requiring them nationwide and for Trump to wear one himself.
“The other states are just starting to do it now, states that were recalcitrant, governors who said ‘we don’t need to do this, masks don’t work,” Cuomo said at a briefing. “Now they’re doing a 180 … let the president have the same sense and do that as an executive order.”
Cuomo also tweeted out a photoshopped picture of Trump wearing a mask, imploring him to “PUT A MASK ON IT!”
“If President Trump wants Americans to take COVID seriously, there’s one easy thing he can do,” Cuomo wrote. “Mr. President, put on a mask.”
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