By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “No one wants to do this,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as she became the latest GOP governor to drop resistance to a statewide mask mandate. “If Iowans don’t buy into this, we lose. Businesses will close; schools will be forced to go online; and our health care system will fail. The cost in human life will be high.”

For Gov. Reynolds, the grim autumn COVID-19 surge overrode this year’s partisan pattern of follow-the-leader, with many Republicans shunning mandatory masking as liberal overreach. From President Trump’s dismissive reaction to the initial CDC recommendation of mask-wearing (“Somehow, sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk [meeting with] presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself.”) to his snarking at talk-show host Laura Ingraham when she attended a Trump campaign rally clad in a mask (“Whoa, she’s being very politically correct.”), the message was heard loud and clear – promoting mask-wearing was apostasy.

But post-election, it seems the tide is turning.

Iowa’s move leaves just 14 states without statewide mask mandates, most of them in the south, Midwest and Big Sky country and all of them governed by Republicans. (Also on the list: Live free or die New Hampshire, where Governor Chris Sununu splits the difference by ordering masking at large gatherings and in some businesses while allowing cities like Nashua and Concord to mandate mask-wearing.)

The role of partisanship is evident in the latest national poll, which shows 91 percent of Biden voters support a national mask mandate while only 60 percent of Trump voters do. Overall, three out of four Americans endorse a national requirement, but that’s a 7-point drop from mid-summer, raising a crucial question: Will the incoming president be able to promote wider mask usage as we wait for vaccines to end our national nightmare?

Jon Keller


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