Washington — Washington Governor Jay Inslee faulted President Trump for failing to urge Americans to wear masks amid a surge in coronavirus infections in more than two dozen states, likening Mr. Trump's resistance to masks to Alabama governor and segregationist George Wallace's opposition to integration.
"Right now, we are in an urgent national mission, or should be, to mask up," Inslee, a Democrat, said on "Face the Nation." "And the fact is that Donald Trump is for masking up like George Wallace was for integration."
Inslee said universal masking is crucial to reopening states' economies, and added that "all of us should be on that bandwagon right now."
More than 20 states are experiencing surges in coronavirus infections after loosening guidelines on businesses and residents put in place across March and April to mitigate the spread of the virus. As a result, some governors have begun halting their phased reopenings.
In Washington state, which was one of the first epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., infections have begun to rise again. In response to the spike, a statewide order took effect Friday requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
"If we get people masked up, then we can reopen our economy," Inslee said, adding that wearing a mask is crucial from both health and economic standpoints.
The Washington governor criticized the president for his recent tweets and focus on issues other than the coronavirus, saying a "message of health" from Mr. Trump would be helpful for getting control of the epidemic.
"Instead of tweeting the other day about the importance of masks, he tweeted about the monuments," Inslee said. "Now we need a president who will care more about living Americans and less about dead Confederates. This has an enormous impact. And if we can get everybody wearing a MAGA hat to wear a mask, we're going to tame this virus, because this masking is very, very effective."
Inslee also criticized Vice President Mike Pence, who said in an earlier interview on "Face the Nation" that the increase in coronavirus cases can be attributed to more testing and the failure of young Americans to follow public health guidelines.
"When I heard the vice president talk about how things are just hunky dory, it's just maddening," he said. "The situation is critical in many places across the United States and all the happy talk and wishful thinking in the world is not going to wash that away."
Inslee said the country "could use some leadership" from Mr. Trump.
"From day one, he has downplayed and distorted and disabled our ability to fight this war, because information is like the aircraft carriers of World War II," he said. "It's how we fight this virus."