'Like Politicizing Toilet Paper': Biden COVID Adviser Slams Politicization of Masks

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID advisory board, spoke on Saturday about a number of steps that ought to be taken in combatting the coronavirus pandemic, as well as ones that people can take to help slow the disease's spread. Most of all, she criticized politicians who have turned wearing masks into a political issue, likening the logic of doing so to "politicizing toilet paper."

During an appearance on MSNBC, Gounder said that elected officials should tell people to wear masks, saying that masks were the most effective way of slowing the spread of the virus and helping the economy stay afloat. "The consistent messaging needs to be: We need to all wear masks. Masks are highly effective in protecting the person who's wearing them, protecting others. They're cheap, and they don't shut down the economy. If you want to keep the economy open, you should wear a mask," she told MSNBC host Ali Velshi.

"It's like politicizing toilet paper," she continued. "A mask is a basic hygienic measure. This is not a political statement."

Gounder also called for more people to get tested for the virus. "We also need to be massively ramping up testing. You should be going out and getting tested," she said.

The president-elect posted a tweet on Saturday afternoon indicating that he supports making tests for the novel coronavirus much more accessible. "Anyone who wants a COVID-19 test should be able to get one," Biden tweeted.

Gounder advised multiple tests for people who may be going to visit family members over the holidays, as well as "before you spend time with family over the holidays, if that is something you choose to do. Really you should have quarantined for 14 days first, gotten a test right before seeing family, and then also consider retesting again a few days later—five to eight days later," she said.

Gounder also called on politicians to share this messaging with the people they govern. "These are the kinds of things we need to be hearing, not just on cable news, but from our elected officials," she said.

Besides being an adviser to Biden on his COVID transition team, Gounder is a doctor at Bellevue Hospital in New York, as well as a professor at New York University. She also hosts the podcasts American Diagnosis and the Epidemic Podcast.

A press contact for Biden's transition team did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Joe Biden
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden looks on during a press briefing on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. On Saturday Celine Gounder, a member of his COVID advisory board, slammed the politicization of masks. Getty/Joe Raedle