Mandatory masks? Biden says as president he would require wearing face coverings in public

Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden says that if he were president, he would require people across the country to wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The one thing we do know, these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask," the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee said in an interview with the CBS Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA on Thursday.

Biden, who was wearing a mask during the interview and stood a distance away from the reporter and TV camera, said that anyone who wanted to reopen a business would have to ensure that people who walk in would have access to masks.

Asked if he would use his federal leverage to mandate the wearing of masks, the former vice president said, "Yes, I would from an executive standpoint. Yes, I would."

"I would do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public," Biden said.

During the interview, Biden also dismissed the idea of holding large rallies under the current circumstances because the virus is not under control and a vaccine is not yet available.

Biden's comments come amid a surge in coronavirus cases in a number of states across the country, with some being forced to pause their reopenings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday also said that the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may be 10 times higher than reported.

President Donald Trump, for his part, has declined to wear a mask throughout the pandemic, including during his first campaign rally in months last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which took place inside an arena where supporters were not required to wear masks.

Experts, meanwhile, have been encouraging people to wear masks because it can significantly reduce transmission of the virus and potentially prevent a second wave of the disease.