Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell underscored the importance of wearing face coverings on the Senate floor Monday.
"We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes & come near other people,” said McConnell, R-Ky. “Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter."
“In fact, the more we dislike the pain and suffering caused by the strict stay-home guidelines a few months ago, the happier we should be to take reasonable small steps every day to ensure our country can stay on offense against the virus,” McConnell added.
He said that until there is a vaccine to protect against COVID-19, Americans must “settle into a middle ground between unsustainable emergency lockdowns and ordinary life as we enjoyed it.”
McConnell’s remarks followed a warning by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that “the window is closing” to take action to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
“We’ve got our fatality rates and our hospitalization rates the lowest they’ve been in two months, but this is a very serious situation. What are we doing about it? We are surging in, working with our local authorities and states,” Azar said of coronavirus spikes in states across the country.
He added: “We’ve got the tools to do this, we just did this in the last couple of weeks in North Carolina. But the window is closing. We have to act and people and individuals need to act responsibly. We need to social distance, we need to wear face coverings if we are in settings where we cannot social distance, particularly in these hot zones.”
When asked if President Trump’s attitude toward face masks had changed, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Monday that Trump still believes a face mask is a “personal decision,” but would urge residents to heed the call of local authorities that have enacted face mask requirements.
Jacksonville, Fla., the site of the Republican National Convention in August, required that all residents wear face coverings in indoor locations on Monday. The announcement comes a week after Republican Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville said he didn’t think the need to wear masks was “prudent.”
On Monday House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., slammed his colleagues House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who have not been wearing masks to House sessions for the subcommittee on coronavirus.
“I am writing to express my profound disappointment that the Republican Members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis refused to wear masks during Friday’s hearing, which was held one day after the United States reached the highest number of new coronavirus cases on record, and after the disease has already killed more people in the United States than in any other nation on Earth,” Clyburn, the chairman of the subcommittee, wrote in a letter.