President-elect Joe Biden plans to make the coronavirus pandemic his first priority as president, and he’s taking a calculated and symbolic action straight off.
Biden’s first executive order will require masks on federal property. It is meant to symbolize the new administration’s 180-degree turn to validate and support science in fighting the pandemic, and to set an example from the top down.
"This executive action will direct the agencies to take action to require compliance with CDC guidance on mask wearing and physical distancing in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors," Biden’s counselor and Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters.
"And the President will call on governors, public health officials, mayors, business leaders and others to implement masking, physical distancing and other public measures to control Covid-19," Zients added.
"This is not a political statement. This is about the health of our families, and economic recovery of our country."
Trump pointedly refused to wear a mask in public throughout his presidency, and Trump political appointees across federal agencies often discouraged mask use among their staff. Largely mask-free events sponsored by the White House were linked to multiple Covid-19 infections, including an event for Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Trump was himself hospitalized for a coronavirus infection in October.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy discusses Biden's planned mask mandate: