Jul 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Feinstein proposes withholding relief funds from states without mask mandates

Sen. Dianne Feinstein in June.
Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement Thursday that she will introduce an amendment to the Senate's next coronavirus stimulus bill that would withhold federal relief funds from states that do not require people to wear masks in public.

Why it matters: While several states have mandated face coverings in the last two weeks as new coronavirus infections surge across the country, 22 states currently have not issued statewide mask mandates for public settings.

What she's saying: “Wearing masks in public should be mandatory. Period," Feinstein said. "Leader McConnell said the Senate will take up the next coronavirus economic relief bill later this month. At that time, I intend to offer an amendment to prohibit sending funds to states that haven’t adopted a statewide mask requirement."

  • "Research shows that masks reduce transmission of the coronavirus. CDC Director Redfield said this surge in COVID-19 cases could end within two months if we adopt ‘universal masking.’"
  • "Businesses like Walmart, Kohl’s and Kroger now require masks. And countries that are successfully controlling this virus require masks. So why doesn’t the United States have a national mask mandate?"
  • "My hope has been that other governors would show the leadership to institute their own mask mandates, but so far that hasn’t happened. It’s time for Congress to step in. This is a matter of life or death, and partisan politics shouldn’t play a role."

The big picture: Some local governments within states that do not require masks in public have enacted mandates of their own, while other states have rules for people in certain situations, such as taking public transit or entering grocery stores.

  • Some governors, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), have not mandated masks in public because they believe a "one-size-fits-all" approach to the pandemic is unnecessarily burdensome on parts of the country that are currently not experiencing surges in new cases.
  • A recent study in Health Affairs found that mask mandates may have averted between 230,000 and 450,000 new coronavirus infections by May 22.

Go deeper ... Map: The states where face coverings are mandatory

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