Harvard’s Dr. Ashish Jha thinks there needs to be a national mask policy

A Harvard professor thinks that wearing a mask in public should be required “across the country” during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, spoke about the lack of a national mask policy during an appearance on the “Today” show.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and people want to have freedom to not wear masks,” said Jha. “Now I understand, sometimes masks can be a little uncomfortable. But the bottom line is that we know that masks reduce infections and they save lives. And just as I can’t walk into a retail store and light up a cigarette, I shouldn’t be able to walk into a retail store without wearing a mask.

“These are basic public health measures that I think should be implemented across the country,” Jha continued. “It’s not that inconvenient. And if it helps up stay open and avoid our hospitals getting overwhelmed, it feels to me like it’s well worth the cost.”

Currently, there is no national policy requiring the usage of masks or face coverings in public, though in April the CDC released a “recommendation” to do so.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an executive order in May mandating that residents wear masks in public, but only “when [residents] cannot socially distance from others.”

The issue of whether residents wear masks has been compounded by the state-by-state reopening across the country, which allow larger clusters of people to gather again in businesses and public places.

While Massachusetts reportedly has the lowest transmission rate in the country, Jha noted that many states may have reopened prematurely.

“About a month-and-a-half ago, the president’s own task force laid out a criteria for what states should use before they open up,” Jha explained. “A good number of states, many of the places where we’re seeing spikes ignored those criteria, and opened up when the case numbers were high and they were not coming down. And so in many ways this was expected. And as upsetting as it is to see these cases, it’s not surprising.

“The question now in front of us is what are we going to do to curtail these spikes so that our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed and we don’t find ourselves having to shut down again,” Jha added. “That’s the thing we all want to try and avoid. And I’m worried that we’re not taking it seriously enough.”

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