Will Biden require masks when he becomes president?

President-elect Biden speaking into mic- will Biden require masks
Photo via jlhervàs/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Joe Biden laid out his 100-day plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic in late December. His plan has several steps, including reopening schools, broadening vaccine efforts, and establishing a mask mandate. The possibility of a mask mandate has people wondering if Biden will require masks when he becomes president on Jan. 20 and if he even has the power to do so.

The president does not appear to have the authority to institute a nationwide mask mandate, according to a fact check from CNN. There are, however, some federally controlled locations where Biden could require masks to be worn. 

Instead of relying wholly on the law to uphold masking measures, Biden intends to lean heavily on individual governors. If governors are unwilling to require masks—a measure that is proven to slow the spread of COVID-19—Biden will speak with mayors and county executives to urge local masking measures.

By the time Biden’s first 100 days are complete, four vaccine candidates could have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have already begun distribution, and the AstraZeneca vaccine is “weeks away,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The vaccine from Johnson and Johnson will likewise likely see approval in the early months of 2021. With so many candidates available, Biden’s efforts toward broadened vaccinations could certainly succeed. 

The mask mandate will be much harder to pull off. Biden has the authority to require masks in certain spaces, and his push to require them on all interstate transportation—including on airplanes, trains, buses, and subways—would be a big step forward. His executive order could also require masks to be worn on federal property.

Masks became a political issue under President Donald Trump, pushing a portion of the country to avoid them purely on principle. If a mandate required them in these often crowded, heavily used spaces, it would likely drastically reduce transmission of the virus. 

Read more on coronavirus face coverings:

Sources: CNN, Reuters, Independent, NPR, NY Daily News

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