As the likelihood of Congress getting its act together and giving the American public what it needs to economically survive the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — namely, money — dwindles by the day, Sen. Bernie Sanders and a number of other Democratic lawmakers have unveiled new legislation to ensure a very different kind of government relief: masks. Enough for every American three times over, in fact.
On Wednesday, Sanders and 14 other Democratic senators introduced his "Masks for All Act" — legislation designed to use the Defense Production Act to mass-produce enough masks to, per the text of the bill, "provide a supply of three high-quality reusable face masks to every individual in the United States."
The bill specifically calls for providing the resource to people experiencing homelessness as well as those "living in group quarters." The $5 billion proposal would mail masks to people and additionally create mask pick-up sites, free of cost to the public.
"We are the wealthiest country on earth, yet our health care workers are still facing a shortage of N-95s, our essential workers are having to purchase their own protective face masks, and far too many vulnerable Americans are being left to figure out how to procure this basic need," Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.), who sponsored the House version of the bill, said in a press release.
“Congress has a responsibility to step up where the White House has abdicated its responsibility and ensure every family has the equipment they need to stay safe," Khanna continued. "If we can afford a $740 billion defense budget, we can afford to send every American a face mask. And if we’re asking folks to wear a mask, which is absolutely essential, it’s on us to provide one."
Currently 32 states have mandated facial coverings in public, while Trump only recently — and reluctantly — began wearing them. Florida, which has become the major coronavirus outbreak spot in the country, does not require masks to be worn in public.
"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," Sanders said in a press release announcing the bill. "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," he continued. "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."