Warren asks CDC to mandate masks

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 Sen. Elizabeth Warren is requesting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use its existing powers to implement and expand mask requirements, and asked whether the agency could intervene in situations like Georgia’s ban on local mask laws.

The Massachusetts Democrat appealed to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield in a new letter sent Monday, suggesting that the public agency already has the authority to institute mask mandates and local gathering limits — beyond the current patchwork response from state governors and local leaders.

That power, Warren writes in the letter obtained by CNN, could come from a code of federal regulations for public health already in place that allows the CDC to limit interstate travel to control communicable diseases.

Warren also asked whether the CDC would step in “in instances where state governors or other officials order the removal of restrictions or mask mandates.”

She cited Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who recently banned any local mask requirements.

“I would like to know whether the CDC will use its authorities to intervene allowing orders of this kind, like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s announcement last week, would seem to be in direct contradiction to the Department’s mandate,” Warren wrote.

The CDC has advised that “cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms.” The agency also said everyone “should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.”

And the benefits go both ways. “Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you,” the CDC said.

Warren requested “more information on whether and how the CDC plans to use its authorities” under federal code that could allow the public agency “to institute mask mandates, implement restrictions on gatherings, reverse reopenings, and enforce other public health measures.”

Warren and other Senate Democrats have used letters and hearings to keep pressure on the CDC during the coronavirus pandemic. Warren’s eldest brother died of coronavirus in April.

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