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Trade Groups Push Trump for Guidelines on Mask Requirements

July 2, 2020, 9:28 PM

Top Washington trade groups urged President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. governors to issue guidelines on mask requirements, citing the economic risk from the accelerating spread of Covid-19.

A letter on Thursday from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, the Business Roundtable and others came a day after Trump offered limited praise for wearing masks but suggested they need not be required. The president has put little emphasis on masks despite evidence they can help combat the spread of the deadly virus.

“Absent stronger measures to prevent transmission, communities across America risk another round of shutdowns, broad restrictions on non-essential activities, and irreparable economic harm,” said the organizations, which generally view federal regulation skeptically.

The release of their letter happened to coincide with an order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott that state residents wear face coverings. Abbott, a Republican and Trump ally, had opposed such a move for months, but has been under growing pressure from Democratic mayors and county leaders as cases in Sun Belt states keep rising.

The decision to impose mask mandates should still rest with states and local governments, the letter said, adding that the groups sought guidelines, which would be developed by governors and the White House’s coronavirus task force, in order to allow localities to coordinate their rules and lessen public confusion.

Earlier: Trump, Democrats Set Out Terms for Next Round of Virus Relief

The letter, however, all but urged state and local governments to adopt the requirements, suggesting that some policies allowing, rather than mandating, masks were endangering the public.

“Regrettably, in recent weeks we have seen evidence that in some areas where there is growing community spread, issuing voluntary guidance on masks is insufficient to protect public health,” the trade groups said.

The letter, which echoed successful calls by business groups in March to establish guidelines on essential workers exempt from the lockdowns, also pushed for the standards to “make clear that businesses and non-profits will not be held liable for refusing entry or services to an individual who is not complying with face covering requirements.”

Clashes involving unmasked customers and employees of stores and other establishments have grown in recent weeks.

The jump in new virus cases has caused many states to halt or reverse reopening plans, resulting in a second round of job cuts and risks to the economy even as some positions lost in the initial weeks of the crisis have been restored.

The renewed health and economic threat from the pandemic has put increased pressure on the economy, the White House and Congress to come to terms on another round of stimulus.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net

John Harney, Justin Blum

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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