With the COVID-19 pandemic happening during a year in which the presidential elections were also happening, it was easy to predict that the two were going to be heavily influenced by the other. The pandemic has changed everything about this election, from how the candidates have campaigned, to how people voted, and it’s been one of the main topics during the debates.
The stands on the virus have been completely different among the both main candidates. Donald Trump took a lighter approach, underestimating the effectiveness of face masks, while Joe Biden made social distancing rules the main focus of his campaign, recommending the use of face-coverings across the USA.
In August, the Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris made the first statements mentioning a potential mask mandate, talking about the use of masks across the United States. Biden said to reporters that it should be required by governors of every state to use a face mask, after a briefing by public health experts.
Joe Biden stated that, during the following three months, mass use of face masks as a measure to stop the spread of the virus could save up to 40,000 lives. He expressed his desire to establish a mask mandate that would involve the whole nation. But, in September, the authority he would have as president to impose this nationwide mandate was uncertain, according to the following statement by him.
When asked if he could make an executive order to enforce a mask mandate if governors of some states refused, he didn’t give a definitive answer. His team was still researching whether or not he would have the legal authority to do it. He finished by saying that, if the legal authority to do so was on the table, we would do it without a doubt.
Flash forward to October, now the former Vice President was almost certain the imposition of a national mask mandate wouldn’t be possible if he was elected, concluding with his team that it wouldn’t be legal. But, he ended this statement saying that he could require the use of face masks on federal property and that he would call governors and mayors to Washington to discuss the issue of COVID-19, including the requirement of face masks.
The director of Georgetown University’s O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Lawrence Gostin, stated that a nationwide mask mandate wasn’t possible because the public health powers didn’t belong to the federal government, but the states, saying that the federal government couldn’t even force the states to enforce a mask mandate.
Now, after the elections have finished and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected, they’ve made and published a whole plan regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, which they’ve detailed in their official website, along with other plans as well. According to the website, President-elect Biden plans to “implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors.” In the website, they also state that Biden continues to call on every American to wear a mask in situations where they’re close to people who don’t live with them, and on governors to make masks mandatory in their respective state.
Why masks have been the center of attention during the pandemic
The new coronavirus species was discovered at the end of last year, and it’s responsible for a respiratory infectious disease called COVID-19. Like the other coronavirus known to men, it causes a very mild flu-like respiratory illness, but it differs in its possibility to also cause a more severe form of the disease in certain groups of people.
The majority of the cases are mild or asymptomatic, with the most commonly reported symptoms being dry cough, sore throat, muscle pain, fever, and the loss of taste and smell. But, the severity of the disease has been linked to the person’s age, immune system, and the presence of any other pre-existing conditions.
Some of the most vulnerable groups of people include older people, immunocompromised patients, and people with illnesses like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, lung/respiratory illnesses, or any type of organ failure, among others. In these people, COVID-19 can lead to serious complications, like thrombosis, multi-organ failure, severe lung injury, and it can even be lethal. A lot of people around the world have been needing ventilators to oxygenate their bodies properly.
While the size of this percentage of cases is relatively small, with too many people infected at once, it becomes more concerning. With all the uncertainty surrounding the virus, the one thing that’s been well-established is that face-coverings are the best resource to prevent the virus from spreading any further. This is a respiratory virus, and masks prevent the droplets that contain it from entering the airways and infecting the lungs.
Right now, the main virus protection measure we have available are face masks. And it only works if everyone uses them because asymptomatic people (which make up a lot of the cases) can spread it without knowing it. The CDC recommends using face masks, be it disposable face masks or reusable ones, when in public and around people who don’t live in your household.
They also urge to leave medical-grade masks, like N95 respirators and KN95 masks, which can also filter dust and smoke besides their antiviral properties, for healthcare providers. Some of the most popular N95 masks are the 3M N95 masks, including the 3M 8511 and 3M 8210 models. Many people began to buy these masks at the beginning of the pandemic in bulk and wholesale, but now it’s very difficult to find them for sale online.