GOP governors say they’ll reject Biden mask mandate

Republican leaders across the country have already gone against a mask policy before it has been implemented by President-elect Biden

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President-elect Joe Biden initiated a COVID-19 task force this week and planned to speak with governors about methods to control the spread of coronavirus as he continues to make fighting the pandemic a priority. Some Republican leaders, however, said they would not agree to certain conditions.

Read More: Biden cheers vaccine progress but says masks remain a must

theGrio reported Biden campaign officials confirmed his plans to meet with governors and mayors nationwide concerning a mask mandate.

“If a governor declines, he’ll go to the mayors in the state and ask them to lead,” a Biden adviser said according to the report. “In many states, there is the capacity of mayors to institute mandates.”

According to Politico, several GOP state leaders have rejected a nationwide mask mandate before it is even officially ordered. In primarily red states, governors have opposed a potential nationwide mask rule before speaking with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Over a dozen governors who currently do not have statewide mandates have spoken out against the idea.

South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt and Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts are included in the group of governors who believe wearing a mask should be a personal choice, not mandatory by law. theGrio reported over the summer that Stitt was the first governor in the country to test positive for COVID-19 when he shared his diagnosis back in July. He did not order a statewide mask mandate and resisted closing businesses through the pandemic.

“We respect people’s rights … to not wear a mask,” Stitt said according to the report. “You just open up a big can of worms.”

These sentiments were echoed by Noem. A representative informed Politico that her decision to allow residents of South Dakota decide for themselves has not changed.

President-Elect Joe Biden
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – NOVEMBER 09: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden holds a protective mask as he speaks to the media after receiving a briefing from the transition COVID-19 advisory board on November 09, 2020 at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Biden spoke about how his administration would respond to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Governor Noem has provided her people with the full scope of the science, facts, and data regarding the virus, and then she has trusted them to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones,” spokesperson Ian Fury wrote according to the political outlet. “She will not be changing that approach.”

Gov. Rickett’s first-hand experience with coronavirus has not shifted his thoughts on mask-wearing. He doubled down on his July statements in a recent press conference Politico reported, adamant he would not work with the president-elect.

“If President-elect Biden is indeed confirmed to be the next president, and he approaches me about a mask mandate, I would not be going along with a mask mandate,” Ricketts said according to the outlet. “As far as a mandate, I’ve been very clear I don’t think this it’s the right thing to do.”

Read More: Trump supporters say masks are harmful, would wear if Trump said so

According to Politico, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also rejects the concept of a nationwide mandate. She issued a requirement for customers and employees to wear masks at hair salons and tattoo parlors, but rejected a statewide rule, putting the responsibility on the individual.

President Donald Trump won all four aforementioned states during the 2020 presidential election. He used his campaign and platform to politicize wearing masks, frequently critiquing his Democratic opponent for opting to wear a face covering. All four states have also seen at least 8,000 COVID-19 cases within the past seven days.

Citizens across the country have protested against stay-at-home orders and masks. theGrio reported in April, armed Michigan residents stormed the state capitol to demand Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to end the protective policies. The wearing or refusal to wear a mask has highlighted a political divide on public health. According to theGrio, Democrats and Republicans have split over social distancing, closing businesses and other pandemic responses.

Some Republican governors have, however, ordered mask mandates since the pandemic begin. Eric Holcomb in Indiana, Kay Ivey in Alabama, and Mike DeWine in Ohio have issued rules requiring face coverings in public places such as grocery stores, retail shops, and public transportation. Recently, Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah announced a statewide mask ordinance. According to NPR, all Utah residents are now required to wear masks in public and when within 6 feet of anyone they do not share a household with.

According to the report, Utah has seen 32,621 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,084 hospitalizations and 659 deaths.

In total, 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have all implemented varying levels of statewide mask requirements as noted by AARP. Only Mississippi has lifted a statewide mask mandate. Gov. Tate Reeves  lifted the mandate on September 30 after it had been in place for almost two months. In 15 counties with high COVID-19 rates however, face coverings are still required until at least December 11.

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