How Biden’s COVID Speech Will Doom Thousands; He Broke His Promise to Do Everything He Could to Mandate Masks
Joe Biden's Speech Regarding The COVID Pandemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 11, 2021) - President Joe Biden's speech tonight is expected to outline what he had done, and plans to do, regarding the COVID pandemic, but he apparently will not say the one thing which would save thousands of lives - although his own White House COVID-19 Response Team is considering it - argues public interest law professor John Banzhaf whose efforts have saved lives threatened by COVID.
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At a time when the CDC Director has just warned that March and April will be "critical" in stopping another COVID-19 surge, and a more states are dropping mask mandates, President Biden has broken his promise to "do everything possible" from "an executive standpoint" to "make it required that people had to wear masks in public," charges public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
By announcing a simple directive tonight in Biden's speech, a step which doesn't involve Congress or even create new law, Biden could slash the number of states without mask mandates where millions of people - including (even if they themselves wear masks) the elderly, those at high risk of COVID-19 because of medical conditions, many essential workers, and innocent children - are being put at unnecessary risk of death, disability, hospitalization, and long-term effects of COVID-19, says Banzhaf, who helped improve the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Recently, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota and Mississippi dropped their mask mandates, and Biden just blasted the governors of Texas and Mississippi for engaging in "Neanderthal thinking" for ending their state's requirements.
Doing Everything Possible From An Executive Standpoint
But at this crucial time - when just a few words in Biden's speech tonight would save thousands of lives - he seems to have forgotten that he had promised to "do everything possible" from "an executive standpoint" to "make it required that people had to wear masks in public." He clearly has not done all he can, says Professor Banzhaf.
More specifically, Biden has ignored a proposal being considered by his own White House COVID-19 Response Team to make a simple announcement which could help save thousands of lives and millions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, says Banzhaf, who explains the simple life-saving idea this way.
Although a president seemingly lacks the legal authority to directly require masks to be worn within individual states, he can by himself simply announce and provide that applications for federal health-related grants will only be accepted from entities - including schools, hospitals, local governmental bodies, universities, charitable organizations, and many others - in states which have a mask mandate in effect on a stated date (e.g., March 20, 2021).
Such an announcement by the President would put enormous pressure on state governors and state legislators to put mask mandates in place now at a time when they are most necessary, and will do the most to slash deaths and unnecessary health care expenses. Indeed, even announcing that such a directive is being considered would, by itself, provide very strong encouragement.
Imposing Conditions To Receive Grants
Since government grants and the conditions under which they are to be awarded are largely discretionary, such a directive from the President would be perfectly legal - unlike an executive order for a national mask mandate which would be subject to legal challenge.
Indeed, imposing conditions to receive federal grants (e.g., not to discriminate, to protect the environment, etc.) are commonplace, generally accepted, and have been used successfully for many years.
Fortunately, the Congressional Research Service agrees, and spelled out the legal basis in its "The Federal Government's Authority to Impose Conditions on Grant Funds."
It seems clear that many entities within states which compete for such grants - including schools and universities, hospitals and other medical facilities, charitable organizations, etc. - would be very reluctant to take even a small chance of possibly missing out on a big federal health grant from the new administration, and would therefor press their governors very strongly to adopt a state-wide mask mandate.
The same result would apply if the policy were to be extended to additional categories of grants, not just to those which are health-related, and possibly even to certain government contracts.
On the other hand, admits Professor Banzhaf, it is much easier to justify such mask-related conditions on grants directly related to health - e.g., why should taxpayers subsidize a grant designed to protect the health of citizens in a state which knowingly and deliberately has chosen to put the health of its citizens at an unnecessary and unreasonable risk of death, disability, hospitalization, long-term lingering after effects, and more.
In summary, requiring masks on federal property, while using certain transportation modalities, and challenging the public to wear masks - which the President has already done - in an important first step in the right direction, but it falls far short of what he can accomplish - and has promised he would do - by providing a very powerful incentive for the remaining sixteen states to join the great majority in requiring masks to be worn in public places.
The states which reportedly do not have a state-wide mask mandate include Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.