GOP Senator John Barrasso Concerned CMA’s Decision Not to Require Masks

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Senator John Barrasso, who is a doctor, told CNBC on Friday that he was concerned about AMC Entertainment’s decision not to require face masks in its theaters.”I have a lot of concerns about this,” said the Wyoming Republican on “Squawk Box.” “You are talking about a confined space where people are there for long periods, essentially breathing the same air. ”

Barrasso, who was previously president of the Wyoming Medical Society, compared cinemas to flying during the coronavirus pandemic. “I think the increased risk of people is there. People should wear masks in these situations, ”he said.

AMC recently announced plans to open most of its theaters in mid-July. But its CEO, Adam Aron, is now the target of criticism after stating that the company has no plans to require movie buffs to wear masks. Aron, in an interview with Variety published Thursday, attributed the decision in part to political concerns.

“We didn’t want to be drawn into political controversy,” Aron told Variety, an entertainment publication. “We thought it could be counterproductive if we forced people to wear masks that strongly believe it is not necessary. We believe that the vast majority of AMC customers will wear masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will definitely be wearing a mask and leading by example. ”

Public health experts say wearing a face mask is essential to limit the spread of Covid-19. The virus can spread through respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough, and studies suggest that face masks may be a barrier.

But there is a partisan divide about masks. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they wear one, according to a CNBC poll last month. And President Donald Trump, who has largely refused to wear a mask in public, told the Wall Street Journal this week that he thought some people were wearing masks to “signal disapproval.”

Barrasso, who spent 24 years as an orthopedic surgeon, said he thought the requirement for masks would actually be better for business, as people might not feel comfortable going to the theater unless you know everyone is wearing a mask.

“I think people will be reluctant to spend their money and sit in a confined space for a few hours, breathing the same air as many people who do not wear masks,” he said.

A medical worker wearing a mask walks near the AMC cinema in Times Square amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 7, 2020 in New York.Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images

AMC requires employees to wear face covers, and the company said it is improving its cleaning and sanitation practices. He said it would also limit accommodation to encourage social distancing.

AMC representatives did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Barrasso’s remarks.

In general, Barrasso said that people feeling safe to go out and resume their activities were important to the US economic recovery. At the same time, he also argued that companies should benefit from enhanced liability protection, provided they comply with public health rules. He said it is a key element he wants in all of Congress’s potential coronavirus rescue packages.

“I think you’d want to make sure that you provide liability protection for companies that follow the prescribed guidelines and make sure that we just don’t have an explosion of lawsuits if someone says,” Yeah, I I went shopping at this store or I went to this school or I went to this doctor and now I have a coronavirus, ”he said. “I think we need protection that does not exist today. “

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