Pueblo – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and over three dozen of his Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives in introducing lifesaving legislation to manufacture and distribute high-quality, reusable masks to everyone in America. This comes as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections continue to surge across America with nearly 30 states, including Colorado, imposing public mask-wearing requirements.
“As COVID-19 cases surge in parts of the country, we must continue to heed the advice of public health experts who are encouraging the use of face masks and face coverings in public to help slow the spread of the virus,” said Bennet. “Through the use of the Defense Production Act, we can help equip every American with this protection they need to stay safe. This bill will ensure that every American, no matter their circumstances, has the opportunity to wear a mask and take personal responsibility to not only keep themselves safe, but also their friends, family, and community."
“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.”
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 could save the U.S. economy $1 trillion through avoidance of strict lockdown measures. At a recent U.S. Senate hearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 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,” said Fauci. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it is giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of.”
This proposal, developed in consultation with health experts including Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama, would use the United States Postal Service (USPS) 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.
“This bill is an example of Congress at its best: A common-sense, low-cost solution that saves American lives without introducing needless partisanship,” said Slavitt. “At this point I don’t think there’s a prominent expert in the world who doesn’t think masks for all is a good and necessary idea. I am among many who believe American innovation and the Defense Production Act are critical pieces to unlock.”
This legislation also provides 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.
Finally, the Masks for All Act would provide needed surgical masks and N-95 respirators to all workers in health settings using all available authorities, including the Defense Production Act.
Bennet has advocated for universal, homemade mask wearing — masks that are not N-95 respirators or surgical masks needed by frontline workers — since the start of this pandemic. Along with U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Bennet welcomed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) encouraging the use of masks after Bennet and Toomey led the push for the CDC to clarify its guidance. This week, Bennet and Toomey introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate asking every American to do their part and wear a mask in public. The resolution highlights the growing evidence that mask wearing indoors, when social distancing is not an option, can help combat the spread of COVID-19.
In addition to Bennet and Sanders, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
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), 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).
The text of the bill is available HERE.
A summary of the bill is available HERE.
A section-by-section outline of the bill is available HERE.