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Mitch McConnell urges people to wear masks to fight coronavirus: ‘We must have no stigma, none’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.Susan Walsh/Associated Press

In an apparent break with President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is denouncing the “stigma” around wearing masks as the coronavirus pandemic reaches new heights in the United States, largely driven by states like Florida, Arizona, and Texas that have reopened their economies.

In a speech on the Senate floor on Monday, McConnell implored Americans to wear face coverings when they leave their homes, casting it as a simple step to combat the virus.

“We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people,” McConnell said Monday. “In fact, the more we hate the pain and suffering that accompanied the strict stay-home guidelines a few months ago, the happier we should be to take reasonable small steps every day to ensure our country can stay on offense against the virus.”

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It was a sharp contrast from the message being delivered by Trump, who has refused to wear a face mask in public and has mocked former vice president Joe Biden for doing so.

“I see Biden. It’s like his whole face is covered. It’s like he put a knapsack over his face. He probably likes it that way,” Trump said during an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

The CDC now recommends all Americans wear face masks when they are around other people outside their home after studies showed mask usage can reduce the spread of coronavirus. Public health experts say widespread wearing of masks can help prevent a return to the drastic lockdown measures Americans endured at the start of the pandemic earlier this year.

But the idea of wearing face masks has since become a kind of culture war, as governors in Texas and elsewhere overruled local officials who tried to impose mandates on residents wearing face masks in public. Incidents captured on video and shared online have shown irate customers lashing out at being asked to wear masks to patronize businesses.

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Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.