More and more Americans are dying as the number of new coronavirus cases in the country surges to all-new highs, but Republican politicians are still spouting dangerous rhetoric opposing the wearing of face masks.
According to the New York Times, the United States has surpassed 11 million cases nationally, with 247,000 deaths to date.
But in defiance of scientific data, Republican lawmakers remain more concerned about resisting mask mandates than they are about containing the spread of the deadly pandemic.
On Tuesday morning, Republican Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (CO) slammed President-elect Joe Biden for his plan to implement mask mandates nationwide.
"Someone should let Joe Biden know that there is nothing patriotic about mandating what Americans wear to leave their homes," she tweeted.
Her fellow Republican representative-elect, QAnon propagandist Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), tweeted Monday encouraging her constituents to defy any government masking order.
"If Biden steals this election, tries to LOCK DOWN our country and implement mask mandates ... WE WILL NOT COMPLY!" Greene tweeted, linking to a Washington Examiner piece lauding new representatives who oppose the wearing of face masks.
A statement from Noem's office Friday reads: "It's a good day for freedom. Joe Biden realizes that the president doesn't have the authority to institute a mask mandate. For that matter, neither does Governor Noem, which is why she has provided her citizens with the full scope of the science and trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones."
In an email to ABC, Noem spokeswoman Maggie Seidel falsely claimed that public health measures against the coronavirus don't work, saying: "The facts are simple: mask mandates, harsh lockdowns, massive testing and contact tracing haven't worked – in the United States or abroad."
Last week, Noem also falsely alleged that lockdowns don't stop the spread of coronavirus and noted her opposition to a national lockdown, tweeting: "Just like we said, Biden's team wants lockdowns. We already know that lockdowns DON'T stop the spread of the virus. However, they destroy small businesses and jobs, and they make it difficult for families to put food on the table."
Despite the soaring numbers of cases, Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt also refuses to issues a statewide masking order, only requiring masks in government buildings. And Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is being widely criticized after issuing a halfhearted masking order that only requires the use of masks after 15 minutes of exposure.
In fact, more than a dozen states still don't have a statewide order requiring masks in public places.
The Senate, too, remains starkly divided on the wearing of masks, with Republican members flouting masking rules.
On Monday, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) asked his colleague, Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan (AL), to wear a mask while speaking.
Sullivan fired back that Brown couldn't tell him what to do.
"I don't wear a mask when I'm speaking, like most senators," Sullivan said. "I don't need your instructions."
Brown noted, "There clearly isn't much interest in this body in public health," and condemned Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for calling senators to meet in person to push through Trump's unqualified judicial picks.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) then attacked Brown on Twitter for making the request. "This is idiotic," he tweeted. "@SherrodBrown is being a complete ass. He wears a mask to speak—when nobody is remotely near him—as an ostentatious sign of fake virtue."
Many Republican politicians are simply taking the lead from Donald Trump. Despite his own brush with the virus, Trump has mocked the use of face masks since the beginning of the pandemic — and his administration has followed suit.
Just two weeks ago at a rally held before the election, Trump publicly mocked Fox News host Laura Ingraham for wearing a mask to the event.
And a month ago, Twitter took down a tweet posted by Trump's top coronavirus adviser, Scott Atlas, for promoting disinformation about masks.
The tweet falsely claimed that masks were ineffective and did not reduce transmission of the virus.
But this dangerous rhetoric from high-profile Republicans is having real-life consequences as more people double down on opposition to face masks — and more Americans die.
A study from Pew Research Center on Americans' thoughts about the pandemic noted that a full 20% of respondents who mentioned masks claimed that they didn't work, said that they refused to wear them, or claimed that the coronavirus was a hoax perpetrated for partisan political purposes.
While only three percent of Democrats expressed those views, 27 percent of Republicans did.
And, though more than 80 percent of Democratic voters support mask mandates in some public places, only about half of Republican voters do.
According to the same study, 31 percent of Democratic voters mentioning masks did so to express concern about people not wearing them in public places, while only five percent of Republican voters did the same.
President-elect Biden continues to urge Americans to wear masks, and this week slammed Atlas' rhetoric encouraging opposition to statewide measures to contain the spread of the virus.
"What the hell is the matter with these guys?" Biden asked. "What is the matter with them? Resist? Every major individual of any consequence in the health field is saying we can save a hundred thousand lives just between now and Jan. 21 by wearing these masks."