Pence again defers to local and state officials on wearing masks

In a clip from an interview which will air Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pence said, “President Trump and I, after asking the American people to embrace 45 days to slow the spread, we issued guidelines to reopen America and since that day, nearly two months ago, we’ve made it clear that we want to defer to governors, we want to defer to local officials and people should listen to them.”

Pence praised the American principle of federalism, and said “every state has a unique situation.”

The Vice President’s remarks come as health experts in the Trump administration — including Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci — continue to encourage Americans to heed recommendations from the federal government on social distancing and wearing masks. States including California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma have seen record-high spikes in coronavirus cases as they began reopening this month.

Pence also said in the interview that “we believe people should wear masks wherever social distancing is not possible,” and where authorities have said it is necessary. He added that he himself has worn a mask on “several occasions this week,” and that the President has worn a mask before.

At the coronavirus task force briefing Friday, Pence similarly told Americans to listen to guidance from local officials on mask wearing.

Pence, who Trump tasked in February with leading the coronavirus response, sought to balance the reality of record levels of positive tests with a rosy view of how the administration has handled the pandemic.

He said at the briefing that he would travel next week to Texas, Florida and Arizona, states where the virus is surging. And he acknowledged the country “still has work to do.”

On Saturday, the Trump campaign said it had postponed Pence’s campaign events in Florida and Arizona next week “out of an abundance of caution,” a campaign spokesperson told CNN.

“The Vice President is still traveling to Texas, Arizona, and Florida this week as he said he is meeting with the governors and their healthcare teams,” a spokesperson from the office said in a statement to CNN.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not require people to wear face coverings, but recommends it.

“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

There are just a few groups of people who shouldn’t wear cloth masks, including children under 2 years old and people who have breathing problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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