Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday defended the lack of encouragement from the White House on wearing masks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, claiming the issue should be left to the state and local levels of government. 

“One of the elements of the genius of America is the principle of federalism, of state and local control,” Pence told the CBS News program “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We've made it clear that we want to defer to governors. We want to defer to local officials, and people should listen to them.”

"The virus doesn't know federalism ... this is a problem that requires a coordinated national result," host John Dickerson responded.

“If we’d have taken that approach, we'd have never had the success that we had in the greater New York City area,” Pence replied. “We'd have never had the success in Michigan or New Orleans because, from early on, we worked closely in partnership with governors to make sure that they had what they needed when they needed it, tailored to the unique circumstances in their states.” 

President Trump has frequently not worn a mask during public events, drawing criticism. In May, Trump did not wear a mask during a tour of a Ford factory in Michigan, despite a company policy requiring everyone to wear personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Rep. Lamar Alexander, R- Tenn., said Sunday that “it would help” if Trump would wear a mask.

"If wearing masks is important and all the health experts tell us that it is in containing the disease in 2020, it would help if from time to time the president would wear one to help us get rid of this political debate that says if you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask, if you're against Trump, you do," Alexander told CNN. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, compared Trump’s resistance to wearing a mask to segregationist George Wallace’s opposition to integration.

"Right now, we are in an urgent national mission, or should be, to Mask Up," Inslee, said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "And the fact is that Donald Trump is for masking up like George Wallace was for integration."

The debate over mask-wearing comes as coronavirus cases surge in sunbelt states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas. As of Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET, there are 2,539,544 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 125,747 deaths.