Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has said that if he is elected, he would mandate that face masks be worn on federal property to curb the spread of the virus.
The comments came during a 75-minute drive-in CNN town hall event at PNC Field in Moosic, Pennsylvania.
Mr Biden said that, as president, he would not have the authority to compel every US citizen to wear a mask. Instead, the former Vice President said he would “call every governor in the country into the White House (and) say, ‘You should be putting mandates out’”.
Should the governors refuse, Mr Biden said he would “call the mayors in their towns and their cities and say put out mandates”.
“I can do that on federal property. As president, I will do that. On federal land, I’d have the authority”, Mr Biden said. “If you’re on federal land, you must wear a mask. In a federal building, you must wear a mask. And we could have a fine for them not doing it”.
Mr Biden’s comments at the town hall event came a day after he told reporters that he believes, as president, he would have the legal authority to issue a nationwide mask mandate but “can’t guarantee you that yet”.
When asked how such a mandate would be implemented, Mr Biden said it would depend on “the degree to which there’s a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country”.
“I’d make the case why it’s necessary. I’d have the scientists arrayed to lay out in detail why. And I would go to every governor … Republican and Democratic governors and I’d say, ‘We have to have this national mandate. We must do it’”, Mr Biden said.
Last month, Mr Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, urged governors to enact and enforce strict coronavirus face masks for at least the next three months.
"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months at a minimum”, Mr Biden said. "Wearing a mask is going to get our kids back to school sooner and safer”.
As of Friday, the US has recorded more than 6.7 million cases of COVID-19 which nearly 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tallies the numbers.