President Donald Trump on Thursday rejected former Vice President Joe Biden’s call for a national mask mandate to combat the coronavirus, accusing the Democratic candidate for president of politicizing the outbreak and of shunning science in combating the pandemic.
“It’s a shameful situation for anybody to try and score political points while we’re working to save lives and defeat the pandemic,” Trump said during a White House press briefing.
Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, earlier on Thursday said every American should wear a mask when they’re outside the home for the next three months. He said every governor should mandate their use.
Trump, who resisted calls to wear masks for months, now endorses the idea, although he favors allowing governors to decide on whether to require them at the state level.
“We have urged Americans to wear masks. We’ve been saying wear them when it’s appropriate,” Trump said. “Maybe they’re great and maybe they’re just good, maybe they’re not so good. But frankly what do you have to lose? You have nothing to lose.”
Governors from both Democrat- and Republican-led states across the country have mandated the use of masks or have rolled back reopening plans as cases have resurged primarily in the Midwest and Sun Belt.
However, Trump claimed that Biden “wants to shut down our economy and close our schools and grind society to a halt.” Trump, who has repeatedly said lockdowns intended to prevent the further spread of the virus would inflict more harm than good, told reporters that Biden is “in favor of locking all Americans in their basements for months on end.”
“We’ll defeat this virus, but not by hiding in our basements, he’s got to come out of his basement. We’ll defeat this virus through a common sense mitigation effort, shielding those at highest risk and unleashing America’s medical and scientific genius.”
Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, his newly announced pick for vice president, have ramped up their criticism of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus in recent days. The pair held two briefings earlier Thursday, one on the coronavirus and the other on the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, and held a brief session with reporters.
“This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start,” Harris said in accepting her nomination on Wednesday.