July 30, 2020

Van Hollen, Schatz, Feinstein Introduce New Bill to Improve Public Awareness of Masks in Reducing the Spread of Covid-19, Provide Free Cloth Masks

Bill Funds PSA Campaign, Continued Research Into Mask Efficacy

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced new legislation that will increase the adoption of face coverings by providing free cloth masks to any individual who requests one. The Senators' bill will also authorize a public service announcement campaign and additional research into mask efficacy to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to combat this virus. As cases continue to rise in Maryland and around the country, the federal government must do all we can to curb new infections by distributing masks and ensuring proper usage,” said Senator Van Hollen. “With this simple step, mask wearers protect both themselves and the people around them – which saves lives.”

“The research is clear: masks work,” said Senator Schatz. “We all need to do our part to comply with this simple and temporary public health recommendation to prevent the unnecessary spread of this virus and save lives.” 

“Until an effective vaccine or treatment is developed, masks and physical distancing remain the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Evidence shows that masks not only reduce the chances of someone spreading the virus, they also may decrease the risk and severity of infection for the wearer. This is especially important given the prevalence of asymptomatic transmission. We must do everything we can to achieve universal mask use to stop the current surge of cases,” said Senator Feinstein.

Studies show that face coverings are highly effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19, and high levels of cloth face covering adoption may prevent asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers from unknowingly infecting others. 

The Masks Work Act of 2020 directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program to provide a free cloth face covering to any individual who requests one. The legislation also directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a public service announcement campaign to inform Americans about the efficacy of cloth face coverings and why they are recommended by public health experts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The bill authorizes funds for the National Institutes of Health to conduct further studies on the efficacy of cloth masks and other facial coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). 

“As states across the country experience a worrying climb in COVID-19 infection rates, it’s time to take seriously one of the most effective interventions we have - masks and face coverings. Simply put, masks work,” said Representative Schiff. “Study after study has found that high rates of mask adoption impede the spread of the virus, and that countries where mask wearing is universal have been far more successful than the United States in preventing infection. I am proud to partner with Senator Schatz on this vital legislation to get every American masks for free and send the clear message that wearing them will save lives and help us fight this virus.”