Sen. Alexander: ‘Millions who admire President Trump would follow his lead if he wore a mask when appropriate’

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) Sunday told Manu Raju on CNN’s Inside Politics that “millions of Americans who admire President Trump would follow his lead if he wore a mask when it’s appropriate.” 

Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate health committee, said that “it also would help to get rid of this political debate that if you’re for President Trump, you don’t wear a mask, and if you’re against President Trump, you do wear a mask.”

“Most of the time he’s with people who have been tested, he’s been tested,” Alexander continued, “but there are times when he could wear a mask or the vice president could wear a mask. I think it would be a sign of strength if he would from time to time wear a mask and remind everyone it’s a good way [to slow the spread of COVID-19].” 

Trump has said in the past that the United States is doing an “incredible job” containing the novel coronavirus. In the CNN interview Sunday, Raju asked Sen. Alexander if he agrees.

Alexander saying he can give only his own assessment.

“I think in some ways the United States has done a good job,” he said. “For example, one thing that will make the most difference is tests, treatments, and vaccines. And we’re moving more rapidly than we ever have. One area where we didn’t do as well was the first test from the Centers for Disease Control — the first test it did was a flop. But, let’s remember that on March 1, The New York Times reported on its front page that most experts agree that the United States is about as well prepared as any country in the world to manage a virus like this. And this virus surprised the experts. It moves more rapidly than people expected. It moves silently, and it’s been a problem. And it’s a problem today.” 

Raju also asked Alexander if he thought the U.S. response has been lackluster when looking at how the government has responded to the virus.

“Well, in terms of the number of tests, I think the number of tests is going up four to five times by the fall so that schools and colleges that are planning to reopen  will be able to have an adequate number of tests for systematic testing,” Alexander responded. “We appropriated enough money from Congress to allow the states to hire as many contract tracers as they need, which is an essential part of it. And we’re moving ahead more rapidly with vaccines—building manufacturing plants before we even know whether the vaccines work in order to cut six months off the amount of time it takes. So in those areas, I think we’re doing well. But, it’s a virus that we are having a hard time dealing with. And then some states are doing better than others.”

Raju also asked the Tennessee senator if he thinks the White House should take a stronger position on masks across the U.S.

“Well, I wish the president would wear a mask when it’s appropriate, because millions of Americans admire him, and they would follow his lead,” Sen. Alexander responded. “And his experts have told all of us that wearing masks, social distancing and washing your hands is the way we can contain the disease, to go back to school and back to work. It also would help to get rid of this political debate that if you’re for President Trump, you don’t wear a mask, and if you’re against President Trump, you do wear a mask. The stakes are much too high for that.”

Alexander added that the president should wear a mask:

“I understand why he doesn’t. Most of the time, he’s with people who have been tested, he’s been tested, so they’re not infecting each other. But there are times when he could wear a mask and the vice president could wear a mask,” he said. “It would signal to the country that it is important to do so. It will help contain the disease because people admire him and will follow his lead. So I think it would be a sign of strength if he would, from time to time, wear a mask and remind everyone that it’s a good way to help deal with this disease. And we’re going to deal with it through 2020 until we get a vaccine.”

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