President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Aug. 13…
President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Aug. 13, 2020, in Washington.

WILMINGTON, DEL. - Presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden is calling for a national mask mandate to cut the number of future deaths from the coronavirus in the United States.  

“It doesn’t have anything to do with Democrats, Republican or independents,” Biden said, but “every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside for the next three months at a minimum.”  

Hour later, President Donald Trump accused Biden of politicizing the pandemic with the request, asserting that a mask mandate would cripple the economy, leading to a depression by wanting to “lock all Americans in their basements for months on end.”

The former vice president, in Wilmington, said the governors of every U.S. state “should mandate mandatory mask wearing,” adding that experts estimate such compliance “will save 40,000 lives in the next three months.”    

Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks to the press after receiving a briefing on COVID-19 in Wilmington, Delaware, on Aug. 13, 2020.

The Trump administration has repeatedly rejected calls for a national mask mandate, leaving such decisions to state governors.  

“It’s not about your rights,” Biden said to a group of reporters in his home state of Delaware. “It’s about your responsibility as an American. This is America. Be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens. Step up. Do the right thing.”  

The president, at an evening news conference, responded that he had emphasized that wearing a mask is a patriotic thing to do.

“Maybe they’re great and maybe they’re just good, maybe they’re not so good,” Trump said of masks. “But frankly what do you have to lose?”

Trump said, however, there is an issue of freedom when it comes to wearing masks — which has become a politically divisive issue in the United States.

“We want to have a certain freedom. That’s what we’re about,” the president said.

Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, said it is important that Americans looking at the upcoming election “ask the current occupant of the White House, ‘When am I going to get vaccinated? When am I actually going to get vaccinated?’”  

Most public health officials expect no vaccine ready for mass inoculations in the United States prior to 2021. Trump, however, has spoken of a vaccine possibly being ready by the time of the presidential election in early November.  

Biden and Harris made their remarks inside a luxury Wilmington hotel after receiving two virtual briefings — one on the COVID-19 public health crisis, and the other on the economic downturn.  

The presumptive Democratic Party nominees sat at desks in a hotel ballroom, facing each other without wearing masks but socially distanced. 

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., receive a virtual briefing on COVID-19 from public health experts in Wilmington, Del., Aug. 13, 2020.

The other participants joined via video links, and their faces were displayed on a large screen behind Biden and Harris.  

Among those briefing the candidates about the coronavirus pandemic were Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, and Dr. Nicki Lurie, a former assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  

The participants in the economic briefing included Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve Board. 

Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.


What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.