masks on
September 1, 2020

Uber is set to start requiring some passengers to provide proof they're complying with the company's mask policy by way of a selfie.

The rideshare company, which mandates that both drivers and riders wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, previously instituted a policy requiring drivers to take a selfie showing themselves wearing a mask, and on Tuesday, Uber announced that this feature will be expanded to some riders, as well, per CNN.

Specifically, Uber said that if a driver reports that a rider wasn't wearing a mask, that user will have to take a selfie showing themselves wearing one prior to their next ride.

"We firmly believe that accountability is a two-way street," Uber said. "...With the addition of this new feature, one driver's feedback can help ensure the safety of Uber for the next driver." The company added that it hopes this "increased accountability provides more peace of mind."

Uber said this new mask verification feature for riders will roll out in the United States and in Canada by the end of September. Brendan Morrow

July 29, 2020

During a phone call with Democrats on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced she will require that all lawmakers wear masks while on the House floor, The Washington Post reports.

A formal announcement is expected Wednesday night. The move comes after Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Gohmert, who typically does not wear a mask around the Capitol, attended the House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General William Barr.

During committee hearings, lawmakers are required to wear masks, and can only take them off when it's their turn to speak. Masks have been recommended around the Capitol, but not required, and a Democratic official told the Post that Pelosi is mulling other measures to more strictly enforce the wearing of face coverings in the Capitol complex. Catherine Garcia

July 27, 2020

The White House now seems to believe masks are necessary to restart the economy.

While he was previously reluctant to endorse masks, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow wore one on Monday for a press conference even though it was held outside and he stayed far from reporters. Kudlow said he'd been "emphasizing" masks over the past few weeks, saying America wouldn't "keep the economy open" or "get kids back to school" without following guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing.

Kudlow reluctantly told Trump supporters to wear a mask at the president's campaign rally last month, but cited surging case numbers and reporters wearing masks around him as reasons to fully embrace them now. Still, Kudlow seemed to have trouble wearing his mask correctly as it kept slipping off his nose.

President Trump was seen in public wearing a mask for the first time earlier this month, and tweeted his first picture of himself wearing a mask last week, calling it "patriotic" to do so. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 15, 2020

A mask mandate is coming to Walmart.

The company, which is the largest retailer in the world, on Wednesday announced it will begin mandating that customers at all of its U.S. stores wear masks, CNN reports.

"While we're certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities," Walmart said.

The company also said this will "help bring consistency across stores and clubs," many of which are located in areas that already require face coverings. In its announcement, Walmart said it has created a new employee role called a "health ambassador," and "will station them near the entrance to remind those without a mask of our new requirements." The ambassadors, who will be wearing black polo shirts, will "receive special training" and will "work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution," as "we know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering," Walmart said. The policy will also apply to Sam's Club.

Walmart is the latest company to start requiring masks throughout the U.S., following companies like Best Buy and Starbucks. Walmart's policy is set to go into effect on Monday, July 20. Brendan Morrow

June 23, 2020

The governors of COVID-19 hot spots Texas, Arizona, and Florida won't make you wear a face mask to control the coronavirus, but that doesn't mean they think it's a bad idea. All three states keep hitting new highs in infection and positive test rates, and last week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) allowed local governments to mandate face masks; Austin, San Antonio, Arizona's Maricopa County (Phoenix), and Tempe have now joined the Florida Keys, Miami Beach, Tampa, and Orange and Miami-Dade counties as mandatory mask areas.

"To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled," Abbott said Monday. "I know that some people feel that wearing a mask is inconvenient or is like an infringement of freedom, but I also know that wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open."

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) defended not making mask-wearing mandatory over the weekend, saying "we've just got to trust people that you'll give them an opportunity to do the good things to make good decisions." Florida's surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, quietly issued a public health advisory Monday urging that "all individuals in Florida should wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible."

"While politicians spar over the topic, a growing number of scientific studies support the idea that masks are a critical tool in curbing the spread of the coronavirus," NPR News reports. "There's some evidence of protection for the wearer, but the stronger evidence is that masks protect others from catching an infection from the person wearing the mask. And infected people can spread the virus just by talking."

NPR offered some mask advice.

The office of New Mexico's governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) — who requires masks statewide — also had some advice. "For the first time in over two months, today we report no additional COVID-19 deaths in New Mexico," her press secretary tweeted Monday. "It's not over! But keep it up. And please, please do not travel to Arizona or Texas." Peter Weber

June 12, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest guidelines are incredibly relevant right now.

On Friday, the CDC introduced precautions Americans should follow as they start to return to regular life and events. In particular, the CDC recommends anyone organizing a large event — a rally or protest, for example — should "strongly encourage" participants to wear cloth masks.

Large gatherings have become unexpectedly widespread in the past few weeks as people around the world gather to protest police brutality and systemic racism in the U.S. Meanwhile, President Trump is gearing up to hold his first rally in months next week, and with Trump resistant to wearing masks himself, he so far hasn't encouraged those around him to don one. The Republican National Convention's keynote speeches will also officially be in person in Jacksonville, Florida, in August, and the convention's organizers don't want those speakers wearing masks.

Before heading to a big event, the CDC recommends everyone evaluate how many people they'll be around, and acknowledge "interacting with more people raises your risk" of COVID-19 infection. Being within six feet of other people and spending more time around them will also increase risk. If you must go out, be sure to wear a cloth mask, and bring tissues and hand sanitizer, the CDC says. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 20, 2020

It's hard to declassify something that was never classified to begin with.

Republicans have recently taken issue with what they call the "unmasking" of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in FBI documents, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even announcing an investigation into the matter. But Obama administration officials didn't actually order Flynn's name unredacted in official FBI documents because his name was never redacted to begin with, former U.S. officials tell The Washington Post.

Unmasking is the practice of identifying an anonymous person in government documents to help others understand what they're reading. But conservatives have taken issue with Flynn's alleged unmasking in documents of his calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, Graham said he found it problematic that FBI files "did not contain a record showing who unmasked" Flynn and asked for that information himself; some conservatives have suggested former Vice President Joe Biden was to blame.

But the source of the unmasking may not have been in the FBI files because Flynn was never anonymous in the first place, the Post reports. "When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn's name from the beginning" because it was necessary for understanding the call, one former senior official said. "There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information." An aide to Graham still said he'd like to see the director of national intelligence answer his letter. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 11, 2020

The White House will now require staffers to wear masks after two recently tested positive for COVID-19.

In a memo on Monday, White House officials were directed to wear masks when entering the West Wing and only not wear them when at their desks, ABC News reports. It also directs them to maintain social distancing.

"We are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or facial covering," the memo says, per The Wall Street Journal. It also says that "unless you absolutely need to conduct in person business in the West Wing, we respectfully ask you to avoid unnecessary visits."

Last week, a personal valet to President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, and just one day later, Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary tested positive as well. The spokesperson, Katie Miller, is also married to Stephen Miller, a White House senior adviser. The White House says Trump, Pence, and "every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president" are being tested for COVID-19 daily. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently announced he'd follow a "modified quarantine" plan, and two other coronavirus task force members are self-quarantining as well.

The New York Times previously reported that Trump "was spooked that his valet, who is among those who serve him food, had not been wearing a mask" and "he was annoyed to learn that Ms. Miller tested positive and has been growing irritated with people who get too close to him." CNN also reports that the White House "had not identified who Miller contracted the virus from as of Sunday, raising concerns inside the White House about how to contain the outbreak."

As for Trump himself, The Washington Post reports aides say that despite the new policy, he's still not likely to wear a mask in the White House. Brendan Morrow

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