House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said that a federal mandate on wearing masks is "long overdue," as state governors call for a consistent national message on the issue amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the nation.
Pelosi said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of masks to reduce the spread of the virus but never mandated it as to "not offend" President Donald Trump.
The president has repeatedly flouted public health guidelines by refusing to wear a mask in public since the start of the outbreak.
"The president should be an example. Real men wear masks, be an example to the country, wear a mask," Pelosi said in an interview on ABC's "This Week." "It's not about protecting yourself, it's about protecting others."
Mask wearing has become a point of contention across the U.S., despite research showing that face coverings prevent coronavirus transmission.
U.S. coronavirus cases surged by more than 45,000 in one day on Friday, a record breaking spike that brought the nation's total to more than 2.5 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday deflected a question about a federal mandate requiring Americans to wear masks, and said people should listen to what state and local officials are saying about wearing masks in public.
The vice president said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" that "every state has a unique situation" and "we believe people should wear masks wherever social distancing is not possible."
Asked if the president and the vice president should be doing more to set an example on the wearing of masks, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said Sunday that there should be a "consistent national message" to wear masks.
"You can have two messages at the same time. Your message is, let's grow our economy, but let's also have the message of social distancing, protecting ourself and others from the virus," Hutchinson said in an interview on ABC's "This Week."
Arkansas, like a dozen other states, has seen a significant increase in new coronavirus cases in recent days, with the seven-day average increasing 36%.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if elected he would require the use of masks in public. The CDC currently recommends that people wear face coverings in public where social distancing is hard to maintain, and some states and local communities require masks.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday criticized the president for his "damaging" tweets and failure to provide a "message of health" to Americans to help control the pandemic.
"Instead of tweeting the other day about the importance of masks, he tweeted about the monuments," Inslee said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Now we need a president who will care more about living Americans and less about dead Confederates. This has an enormous impact."
"And if we can get everybody wearing a MAGA hat to wear a mask, we're going to tame this virus, because this masking is very, very effective," Inslee added.