(CNN) -- Coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield stressed the importance of wearing masks during testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday, with Fauci saying "we recommend masks for everyone" and "masks are extremely important."
The warning from top US health experts came during a hearing on the latest efforts by the US government to contain the pandemic, as several states struggle to contain the virus amid rising cases and state reopenings. The US reported more than 40,000 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, its biggest daily jump yet.
Redfield singled out younger Americans in particular to deliver a message that they are not exempt from the necessity of wearing a mask.
"It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings," he said. "Specifically, I'm addressing the younger members of our society, the Millennials and the Generation Zs -- I ask those that are listening to spread the word."
Fauci spoke of the across-the-board importance of wearing masks.
"We are all in this together," he said, adding, "We recommend masks for everyone on the outside, anyone who comes into contact in a crowded area. You should avoid crowds where possible and when you're outside and not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times."
Fauci indicated that he would support an effort to increase the production of high-quality masks in the US and distribute them free of charge to the American public in response to a question from Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"Masks are extremely important," Fauci said, adding, "There's no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected. So it's people protecting each other. Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it's giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of."
More than half of all states are seeing a rise in cases, and Florida, Texas and Arizona are getting hit particularly hard. Texas has begun scaling back its reopening, and beaches in Florida have closed for the upcoming holiday weekend.
Fauci and Redfield testified before lawmakers last week, when Fauci said "we're going to be doing more testing, not less," in response to President Donald Trump's recent claim that he asked his administration to slow down testing during the pandemic.
Senators have been weighing another stimulus package in recent weeks as unemployment numbers remain worrisome and economic hardship stemming from the pandemic persists. Republicans remains divided on the size and scale of the next stimulus bill and while it has been discussed for months, the next phase of economic relief is still weeks away. But there is now broad agreement something has to be done -- something that wasn't always the case.
In Capitol Hill's last round of aid, Congress boosted unemployment checks by $600 a week and added 13 weeks of pay, beyond what states offer. The additional money will expire on July 31 without congressional action, but the 13-week extension will remain in place until the end of the year. A second round of stimulus payments is on the negotiating table in Washington, but some of the 160 million Americans who got money the first time could be left out, according a more targeted approach the administration is pushing for.
Republicans have zeroed in on the last week of July to reach agreement on the next round of stimulus legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been adamant for weeks on that timeline and the administration is on board.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
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