Sen. Bernie Sanders hedshot
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Every senior living resident in the country would receive three reusable masks at no charge under legislation introduced Tuesday by more than three dozen members of Congress, all Democrats.

The Masks for All Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), would appropriate $5 billion and use the Defense Production Act to provide the masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19, as well as educational materials on the importance of wearing masks to everyone in the country, including the homeless and those living in group settings, including assisted living communities, prisons, shelters and college dormitories. It also would provide surgical masks and N-95 respirators to all healthcare workers.

“The only way we will stop the spread of the coronavirus is if every American is equipped to protect themselves,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “That begins by making sure everyone can follow the public health guidance to wear a mask when appropriate. Doing so will help stop the spread of this virus and protect frontline health workers and essential workers risking their lives everyday on the job, and seniors in nursing and assisted living facilities.”

The masks would be distributed through the U.S. Postal Service or picked up at designated community locations providing essential services, including post offices, pharmacies, schools, public transportation sites and COVID-19 testing sites.

“We are the only high-income country in the world where infections and deaths are skyrocketing instead of falling. Nearly 150,000 are dead, and 1,000 more are dying every day. That is an absolute scandal,” Sanders said. “Providing all of our people with high-quality, reusable masks without cost could save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in economic harm.”

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, widespread use of masks could save more than 40,000 lives by Nov. 1. And research from Goldman Sachs suggests that a national mask mandate would save the U.S. economy $1 trillion.

In addition to Markey, Senate co-sponsors include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI) as well as Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) introduced the Masks for All Act in the House, with more than two dozen co-sponsors.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reportedly is considering relaxing his assisted living community and nursing home visitation ban even as Florida’s death count from the coronavirus has spiked to a new height, with 191 reported fatalities.
  • According to state inspection reports, since April at least eight long-term care facilities in Florida have been suspended for violating state guidelines and rules for COVID-19. Several assisted living communities and nursing homes were cited for mixing COVID-positive residents with non-COVID-19 residents in the same rooms.
  • Assisted living and other long-term care facilities in South Carolina should implement sequential testing of residents and staff members as soon as possible to help state and local officials decide when they can begin allowing visitors again, according to new guidance from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
  • Government officials in Austin, TX, won’t name assisted living communities and nursing homes that have seen COVID cases and deaths, even though the state and/or federal government now are identifying them.
  • Facebook featured Brookdale Senior Living as an exemplary social media leader for COVID-19 response for its consistent and captivating content.