Republican governors are already signalling to the incoming Biden-Harris administration that they will not support, much less enforce, any sort of federal mandates involving COVID-19 and masks.
President-elect Joe Biden says he'll personally call red state governors and persuade them to impose mask mandates to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. Their early response: Don’t waste your time.
Almost all of the 16 Republican governors who oppose statewide mask mandates are ready to reject Biden’s plea, they told POLITICO or declared in public statements — even as they impose new restrictions on businesses and limit the size of public gatherings to keep their health systems from getting swamped.
South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt and Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts, whose states are engulfed by new cases, say mask wearing should remain a personal choice, not a legal obligation — despite recommendations from health officials and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control stressing that masks protect the wearer, not just people nearby, from infection.
“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,” Noem spokesperson Ian Fury wrote in an email. “She will not be changing that approach.”
The politicization of mask-wearing shows how difficult it will be for Biden to build consensus around even basic public health strategies after he’s sworn in.
Though President Donald Trump is on his way out, he’s poised to hold strong influence over GOP officials and voters who’ve largely backed his efforts to downplay the pandemic.
While some of the same governors expressed frustration earlier in the pandemic about the Trump administration’s lack of support on testing and protective gear, most side with Trump on his aversion to mask mandates. They’ve argued that neither Washington nor state capitals should dictate policies like face coverings, saying they are both onerous and unenforceable. And they’re digging in, even with the virus putting 65,000 people in hospitals and infecting more than 1.2 million people since Nov. 1.
“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 during a press briefing on Tuesday.
“As far as a mandate, I’ve been very clear I don’t think this it’s the right thing to do,” Stitt, who was infected with the coronavirus earlier this year, said at a briefing on Tuesday. “This is a personal responsibility."
Several of the Republican holdouts, including Ricketts, have required face coverings for employees and patrons of certain businesses while others, like Stitt, have instead allowed their largest cities to decide on mask orders.
Other Republican governors, like Eric Holcomb in Indiana and Kay Ivey in Alabama have had mandates for months, while Utah Gov. Gary Herbert imposed a statewide order on Sunday night when it became clear this month that his state's hospitals were overwhelmed.
Asked about the possibility of a mask mandate, a spokesperson for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee told POLITICO that “nothing’s off the table.” Counties can implement their own orders and so far nearly two dozen, representing two-thirds of the state population have opted to do so. The state reported a record number of new hospitalizations and deaths this week.
“We need to be nimble in our decision-making, but for the time-being, he’s confident the local-based approach is the most effective,” Gillum Ferguson, Lee’s spokesperson, wrote in an email.
The problem is that a local-based approach doesn't work. It has to not only be statewide, it has to be national, and it has to be simultaneous and enforced.
Not only that, there has to be federal support for businesses and people to survive a 4-6 week lockdown like this, rent relief, stimulus checks, job support, the whole nine yards. If we had done it right in the first place, we'd be in much better shape now.
Chef José Andrés, along with Senators Kamala Harris and Tim Scott, and Representatives Mike Thompson, Jim McGovern and Rodney Davis announced the creation of the FEED Act, a piece of legislation that “allows the Federal government to pay 100 percent of the cost to states and localities so that they can partner with restaurants and nonprofits to prepare nutritious meals for vulnerable populations, such as seniors and underprivileged children.” In a video on Twitter, Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen is one such nonprofit that has been providing these meals, says the act will ensure no part of the country “is without the ability to offer a meal to those who need it the most.”
The act, the full text of which is available here, allows the Federal government to “cover 100 percent of the cost of disaster-related expenses, instead of the typical 75 percent.” Some states have already considered similar aid, as food banks and grocery stores struggle to stay in stock, and as shuttered meat processing plants threaten a meat shortage. Governor Newsom of California recently announced the High Roads Kitchen program, in which independent restaurants will be given funding to provide meals to health care workers and others in need.
With many independent restaurants struggling, the FEED Act could provide another lifeline. “This bill helps utilize our restaurant industry, which has been hit hard during this pandemic, in a way that’s never been done before,” said Representative Rodney Davis. “By creating these partnerships between local governments and local restaurants, we can help get meals to people in need more quickly and help the food industry, which is a major employer and a critical part of our economy, during this difficult time.”
But we didn't, because Trump was in charge.
But we didn't, because Mitch McConnell refused to allow a vote on any of it.
But we didn't, because these Republican governors refused every step of the way. Not every Republican did. Mike DeWine in Ohio did the right thing, as did Eric Holcomb in neighboring Indiana. But the states having the skyrocketing numbers now are the states that refused before.
In a major victory for Gov. Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that the Democratic governor’s emergency regulations to slow the spread of COVID-19 are legal.
The state’s highest court ruled in a 103-page decision that Beshear properly declared a state of emergency in March and validly invoked powers granted to him under the state constitution.
“The governor’s orders were, and continue to be, necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of all Kentucky citizens,” the court said in a decision written by Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes. “This type of highly contagious etiological hazard is precisely the type of emergency that requires a statewide response and properly serves as a basis for the governor’s actions ...”
The decision means dozens of emergency orders from the governor, ranging from a requirement for most Kentuckians to wear a mask in public to class sizes in child care centers, will remain in effect.
Fighting the regulations were several businesses represented by Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Northern Kentucky attorney Chris Wiest. State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, a Republican, supported their efforts. They questioned how Beshear’s restrictions were implemented.
Read more here: https://www.kentucky.com/news/coronavirus/article246788612.html#storylink=cpy
Of course, the battle is far from over. Voters handed Kentucky Republicans a massive margin in the state House and Senate last week, and the first order of business in January is to strip as much power from the Governor's office as possible. Kentucky, as I've said time and time again, is one of the few states where only a 50%+1 margin is needed to override a governor's veto. Republicans will have more than three-quarters of the total seats in both the state Senate and House come January.
They can do whatever they want to Beshear and unless the state Supreme Court intervenes, Kentucky will have no COVID-19 restrictions at all by the time Biden takes office. Hell, Beshear will be lucky if he has an office by Easter Sunday.
And now we're seeing numbers grow in all 50 states. We've got to go back to a national lockdown, or we're going to have a national month of mourning instead.
But Republicans will make sure that never happens.
And millions will die.