Whitmer calls for federal mask mandate; Biden says gov still in running for VP pick

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on President Donald Trump to institute a federal mask mandate to slow the rise of coronavirus cases across the country. 

The request, published Wednesday in a commentary in the New York Times, comes a day after Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden told a West Michigan news channel that the Democratic governor remains under consideration as his running mate.  

"... if Americans do not mask up in public, cases could rise and we could be forced to close down more of our businesses — including the auto manufacturing plants that employ thousands of Michigan workers," Whitmer wrote Wednesday. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Republican and Democratic governors alike have issued mask orders in about half of the states in an effort to slow the continued spread of the virus, Whitmer wrote. She cited University of Washington modeling showing 40,000 lives would be saved if 95% of the U.S. population wore masks in public.

Masks should not be a political statement, Whitmer wrote, noting the president's use of one at a military hospital earlier this month and his insistence on masks in a Monday tweet. 

"I applaud his statement, and urge him to back it up by issuing a nationwide mask mandate like Michigan’s, requiring masks on public transport, indoors, or outdoors when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained," Whitmer wrote.

"The president has the chance to save tens of thousands of lives. I am hopeful that he will seize this opportunity," she added.

Biden confirmed to Wood TV 8 Tuesday that Whitmer is still under consideration as a running mate. He also said Michigan remains "incredibly" important to the overall presidential race.

"Michigan is the key," Biden said, promising to increase manufacturing activity through electric vehicle production. 

In May, Whitmer said she had an "opening conversation" with the Biden campaign on the possibility that she could be picked for Biden's running mate. 

On Monday, Biden told MSNBC's Joy Reid that four Black women were on his list of potential running mates but he avoided answering Reid when she asked if he was committed to picking a Black running mate. 

In this Sept. 12, 2018 file photo former Vice President Joe Biden and then-Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer arrive at Leo's Coney Island in Southfield, Mich.

"That decision is underway right now," he said, noting he was getting a "detailed analysis" of the candidates. He said he would narrow the candidates after that analysis and have "personal conversations" with those that remain.

"My administration, I promise you, will look like America," he said.