In doing so, McConnell waded into what has emerged as the latest coronavirus culture war, aligning himself with federal health agencies who recommend cloth face coverings while drawing a contrast with the conduct of top White House officials, including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
After initially declining to recommend that Americans wear face masks or coverings in the early days of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course in April to encourage the wearing of masks when outside the home, noting that face coverings are not entirely effective and should not be thought of as replacements for social distancing and other stringent hygiene practices.
But the president and his top aides have resisted wearing face coverings, dismissing criticism that eschewing masks sets a bad example for Americans who might follow the president’s lead and put others at risk in the process.
Trump’s resistance to wearing a mask has been thrown into stark relief as he’s begun to venture out of the White House for the first time in months, making visits to plants producing personal protective equipment or other medical supplies, standing bare-faced while others around him wear masks.
He has argued that because the primary objective of wearing a mask is to prevent spreading the virus to others, not the other way around, it’s not necessary for him to wear one because of how often he gets tested for the disease.
But he has also shown a greater sensitivity to the optics of wearing a mask.
On Monday, Trump appeared to mock his likely general election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for wearing a mask in public on Memorial Day, and on Tuesday, he accused a Reuters reporter of trying to be “politically correct” for not removing his mask to be better heard while asking a question at the White House.
Last week, the president wore a face covering in private during a visit to a Ford plant in Michigan, telling reporters later he took it off in front of the cameras to deny them the “pleasure” of seeing him wear it.
McConnell’s comments targeted at young people came after images of Americans partying over Memorial Day weekend flooded social media and drew rebukes from local health officials.