Following his victory over the weekend, president-elect Joe Biden unveiled his administration’s plan to finally bring America’s burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic under control.
Mr Biden, along with vice president-elect Kamala Harris, have made it clear that tackling the virus will be a top priority when they assume office on January 20 – with a plan built on a “bedrock of science”.
“We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments, hugging our children, grandchildren, birthdays, weddings, graduations – all of the moments that matter most, close to us, until we get it under control,” the 77-year-old said in his victory address on Sunday.
“(Our plan) will be constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern. I’ll spare no effort, none, or any commitment, to turn around this pandemic.”
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On Tuesday, the Democrat revealed part of that plan involves urging state governors to implement mask mandates (which some states already have in place) – which would require residents to wear masks in public.
And while he said the move “can save tens of thousands of lives” if everyone takes up the habit “for the next few months”, some state governors have already refused to play along.
In Nebraska, Republican Governor Pete Ricketts said during a press conference this week that he “would not be going along” with a mask mandate.
“I’d be keeping the same policy,” he told reporters. In the midwestern state, face masks are currently required for both clients and staff in personal care businesses and recommended for restaurant employees.
Pressure from the Biden administration to bring in mandatory mask use would “have no impact”, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, also a Republican, told Fox News.
“Mississippi has always developed our own protocols, and they’ve worked,” he said in a statement.
“We’ve had a statewide mask mandate when the numbers reached a crisis level, and we’ve lifted it when the numbers no longer justified it. This is the role of governors – not a president. ‘State managed, federally supported’ is how we’ve always dealt with crises in this country, and it’s not changing.”
Florida State Representative Randy Fine told the publication that a statewide mandate – something that hasn’t been imposed throughout the entire pandemic – would likely not occur despite Mr Biden’s plan.
“Reaching out is one thing, but reaching out and demanding that you do something that you didn’t choose to do and that you don’t have to do is not bipartisanship,” he said.
In New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu also said that a “one-size-fits-all approach out of Washington is not the answer to combating this crisis”.
“New Hampshire has managed this crisis well and I have supported local communities in their decision to enact mask mandates,” he said.
“It’s ensuring that each state has flexibility to attack this pandemic in a targeted, data-driven way.”
Infectious disease specialist and department chairman at the Yale School of Public Health, Dr Albert Ko, warned that states acting of their own accord, however, won’t help turn America’s pandemic around.
“Each state is acting fairly autonomously on their own policies, and we’ve seen how that’s played out,” Dr Ko told The Associated Press.
“This disease needs national and global responses.”