US president-elect Joe Biden has said he will ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
He told CNN he believed there would be a “significant reduction” in Covid-19 cases if every American wore a face covering.
In the interview he said, “The first day I’m inaugurated, I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days, not forever.”
Constitutional experts say the US president has no legal authority to order Americans to wear masks, but Biden said during the interview he and his vice-president Kamala Harris would set an example by wearing face coverings.
The president’s executive authority does cover US government property, and Biden told CNN he intended to exercise such power to order masks to be worn in all federal buildings.
He said, “Transportation, interstate transportation, you must be masked, airplanes and buses, et cetera.”
US airlines, airports and most public transit systems already require all passengers and workers to wear face coverings but many refuse often causing fights to break out between passengers.
While many, particularly in Asia, regard mask wearing as an uncontentious, sensible and socially responsible approach to the pandemic, this is not the case for many Americans.
The issue of whether to wear a mask has become very politicised in the US, with many refusing to wear them because they regard doing so to be a sign of having socialist leanings, and being ordered to wear one as part of an effort to overthrow treasured individual American liberties.
The Trump White House has always rejected calls from American health experts to mandate masks in transportation as “overly restrictive”.