(The Post Millennial) – Presumed President-Elect Joe Biden intends to push for all 50 states to implement mandatory mask protocols.
While Biden has previously called for a federal mask mandate, many experts are now questioning whether the federal government has the authority to implement such a mandate, reports 9News.
According to Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, “a national mandate is not possible because public health powers belong to the states, not the federal government. The federal government couldn’t implement its own mask mandates, nor could it force the states to do it.”
Biden has reportedly embraced the limited power of the federal government on this issue, and will instead be working with state governors and legislatures for such mandates to be implemented at the state level, where the authority to implement such measures is clear. The Biden team suggests that leading by example will encourage other states to follow suit.
“It is true that it is up to the governors to make decisions about the executive orders that we put in place,” Illinois Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker said in regard to mask mandates.
Most states have already implemented some form of mask mandate, although the specific regulations vary between them. Masks are generally required in indoor public spaces and on public transit, and the minimum age at which masks become mandatory varies between two and twelve.
As of Nov. 11, mask mandates exist in 35 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC. Fifteen states, led by Republican governors, have resisted implementing mask mandates while Mississippi has lifted previously implemented mask mandates.
Biden says that if governors refuse to work with the federal government to implement mask mandates, he will instead by working with cities and counties to have them implemented.
The federal government does have other tools at his disposal if local governments refuse to comply, however. Some experts have noted that he could make certain federal funds contingent on the implementation of mask mandates. The federal government has a history of leveraging federal funds for the sake of public health, with former President Ronald Reagan withholding funding for highways from states which did not raise their drinking ages to 21 in the 1980s.
Other experts have suggested that a Biden administration could use the Centre for Disease Control to issue guidelines requiring masks. According to the Public Health Services Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has the ability “to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases” within the United States. Others suggest, however, that the legal groudns to extend this to mandatory mask-wearing is dubious.
Biden could also mandate mask-wearing on federal land and property. While federal land encompasses a large majority of the territory of many US states, especially in the western half of the country, most of the land is largely uninhabited.