WASHINGTON, July 28 – As COVID-19 infections continue to surge across America and nearly 30 states impose public mask-wearing requirements, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and over three dozen of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate and House introduced lifesaving legislation today to manufacture and distribute high-quality, reusable masks to everyone in America.
Senate co-sponsors of Sanders’ Masks for All Act include Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Representatives Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced the Masks for All Act in the House, with more than two dozen cosponsors.
The proposal, developed in consultation with health experts including Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Obama, would use the United States Postal Service to distribute three free, reusable masks to every person in the country, including individuals who are experiencing homelessness or living in group settings such as prisons, shelters, college dorms, and assisted living facilities.
According to one estimate, widespread mask wearing could save over 40,000 American lives by November 1, while another analysis predicted that widespread mask wearing would save the U.S. economy $1 trillion. In questioning by Sanders at a recent Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci voiced his support for the proposal, echoing the consensus of the medical community. “There’s no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected. So it’s people protecting each other," Fauci said. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it is giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of."
The legislation also sets up pick-up sites for additional masks at convenient community locations that are already providing essential services, such as Post Offices, pharmacies, schools, public transportation stations, and COVID-19 testing sites. Additionally, the Masks for All Act provides surgical masks and N-95 respirators to all workers in health settings. To do this, the Masks for All Act would use all available authorities, including the Defense Production Act.
"We are the only high-income country in the world where infections and deaths are skyrocketing instead of falling. Nearly 150,000 are dead and 1,000 more are dying every day. That is an absolute scandal," said Sanders. "Dozens of my colleagues and I are proposing that we do what our public health experts and scientists say we must do. This is not a political or partisan issue. Providing all of our people with high-quality, reusable masks without cost could save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in economic harm."
The bill has been endorsed by the African American Health Alliance, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Association of Flight Attendants (AFA- CWA), the Arc of the United States, the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Democracy for America (DFA), Families USA, First Focus Campaign For Children, Indivisible, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Little Lobbyists, Make the Road NY, Morehouse School of Medicine, MoveOn, National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), National Center for Transgender Equality, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Medical Association, National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPHMU), People’s Action, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Public Citizen, the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Social Security Works, United We Dream, and Working Families Party (WFP).
To read the text of the bill, click here.