Both 10th Congressional District candidates call for national mask mandate

The candidates for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat believe a national plan for the COVID-19 crisis is needed and that President Donald Trump's response was flawed.

Republican Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee of Northbrook is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield in the Nov. 3 election. The candidates spoke about the coronavirus pandemic and other issues with the Daily Herald in a joint, online interview this week.

As of Thursday, more than 6.3 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., and more than 190,000 Americans have died from the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ramirez Mukherjee, who's making her first bid for public office, said the White House's decision to let states create their own responses to the pandemic "was a mistake."

When the pandemic started to spread across the U.S. in March, governors set rules for gatherings, businesses and mask usage state by state, and that's been the case throughout the crisis. And Ramirez Mukherjee initially thought that was appropriate.

But she said government officials didn't realize people traveling between states would so significantly worsen the situation.

"I'm a person that likes local government decisions, not national," she said. "But for masks, I do believe it should be a national response. And I do believe it should be a national response now."

In a follow-up email, Ramirez Mukherjee said she'd give Trump a "C" grade for his response to COVID-19.

She said she's particularly concerned about people who don't wear masks because her 75-year-old mother has health issues.

A lot of Republicans want to choose whether to wear a mask or not, Ramirez Mukherjee said, but she disagrees.

"You need to wear them," Ramirez Mukherjee said. "If (my mom) gets coronavirus, she's dead."

Schneider, who's seeking a fourth term in Congress, also called for a national mandate to wear masks.

"We need our mayors to promote it. We need our governors to promote it. We need our president to promote it," Schneider said. "Unfortunately, our president is taking the opposite direction."

Schneider said Trump has failed the nation "in many ways," including regarding the pandemic. The Trump administration didn't take the disease seriously, Schneider said, and not just when it comes to wearing masks.

He criticized the White House for the nation's continued supply-chain crises, and he voiced concern about hospitals and schools not having enough personal protective equipment this fall.

Schneider noted he recently introduced legislation that would require all federal agencies to give Congress their response plans for any resurgence of the virus.

The 10th District includes parts of Lake and Cook counties. It stretches from Lake Michigan into the North and Northwest suburbs.

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