Sen. Bernie Sanders and public health expert Andy Slavitt on Friday published a joint opinion piece for CNN arguing for a national effort at the federal level to produce and distribute face masks to everyone in the country to help stop the spread of Covid-19.
"We are urgently calling for a simple, common-sense, practical, and inexpensive way to protect Americans during the coronavirus pandemic: Masks for All," the two write. "Our goal must be to make high-quality masks available on an equitable basis to every single person in this country at no cost."
Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats and ran for the party's nomination for president earlier this year, intends to introduce legislation on Masks for All next week. The bill would call for producing and delivering three high-quality masks to everyone in the U.S. using the Defense Production Act and the U.S. Postal Service.
"Masks for All will not only increase the availability of masks, but also the quality," write Sanders and Slavitt. "The ultimate goal, which we hope can be achieved within months, is to get every American a mask that is high quality, comfortable, easy-to-fit and washable for continued use without losing the capacity to keep the virus at bay. And these masks should protect both the wearer as well as the people they come into contact with."
The former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, Slavitt has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic. On Wednesday, Slavitt noted on Twitter that while universal mask-wearing could become an effective counter to the disease, "the public will still need to be convinced it's the right thing to do."
Sanders and Slavitt emphasize the need to normalize mask-wearing in their opinion piece.
"President Donald Trump has recklessly made masks a political football," they write. "But public surveys suggest that Americans, by a good-sized majority, are very open to wearing masks. This bill would help make clear the public health necessity for masks once and for all."
The duo conclude their argument with a call for solidarity in the face of an unprecedented crisis.
"We are all in this together," they write. "During World War II, factories across the country were given the opportunity to play a role in winning the war. Today, U.S. manufacturers and workers could play an equivalent, vital role in winning the war against the pandemic, and ensuring a healthy society for all."