- President Donald Trump dramatically shifted his stance on wearing masks over the last several days after months of downplaying their effectiveness.
- Trump said Monday that “many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.”
- He also said Tuesday that his administration is “asking everybody” who can’t socially distance themselves to “get a mask” and “wear a mask.”
- The change in Trump’s rhetoric comes after he repeatedly refused to wear a mask in public and mocked his opponent, Joe Biden, for doing so.
- It also comes as the president’s campaign struggles to regain its footing amid a rash of negative polling over his handling of the pandemic.
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President Donald Trump dramatically shifted his stance on wearing masks over the last several days after months of downplaying their effectiveness or saying they were not necessary – which had contradicted top US public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and disregarded the scientific evidence that masks sharply limit transmission.
Trump first publicly wore a face-covering on July 11 during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. On July 20, he tweeted a photo of himself wearing a black mask with a presidential seal, adding that “many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.”
We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President! pic.twitter.com/iQOd1whktN
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2020
“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask,” the president said during a news briefing on Tuesday. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They will have an effect. And we need everything we can get.”
“I have no problem with the masks,” Trump added as he pulled a mask out of his pocket. “I view it this way: anything that potentially can help – and that certainly can potentially help – is a good thing. I have no problem. I carry it. I wear it. You saw me wearing it a number of times, and I’ll continue.”
The president’s comments were notable given that he repeatedly downplayed the effectiveness of masks over the last three months.
- Just last month, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that Americans who wear face coverings are doing so just to show their disapproval of him and not as a preventive measure.
- He also told The Journal that his issue with masks was that people sometimes touch them, increasing the risk of infection.
After the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first released guidance on wearing masks in early April, Trump announced the recommendation but said he “won’t be doing it personally.”
- “I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know,” he said. “Somehow, I don’t see it for myself.
- The White House implemented a rule in May requiring visitors and West Wing staffers to wear masks, but Trump appeared at a briefing that day – and at several subsequent briefings – without one, even as other officials around him were shown with face coverings.
- In May, the president was seen touring a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan without a mask despite being told by the state’s attorney general that he had a “legal responsibility” to wear one. Trump said he wore one behind the scenes but “didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
- He was also criticised for failing to wear a mask while visiting a Honeywell plant in Arizona earlier that month. Trump later revealed he had in fact worn a mask but only during a private part of the trip closed off to the media.
- The Associated Press reported that the president didn’t want to wear a mask in public because he was afraid that he’d look ridiculous and that it would harm his reelection chances.
- Trump retweeted a photo in May mocking former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee, for wearing a face mask.
The president appeared to shift his stance last month, saying he would wear a mask if he were within close distance of other people. He added that he believed wearing a mask made him look like the “Lone Ranger,” a reference to a fictional character.
Trump’s decision to wear a mask comes as his administration faces intense criticism for its handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, a pandemic on March 11.
As of Wednesday, the disease has infected nearly 4 million Americans and killed over 142,000 people in the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
In addition to decreasing funding for public health agencies responsible for responding to the pandemic, Trump has drawn backlash for ignoring early warnings from intelligence officials about the possibility of a US outbreak, demonizing public health experts, and spreading misinformation about the severity of the crisis.
Multiple states have in recent weeks seen a resurgence of the outbreak after moving to reopen their economies despite not meeting the White House’s recommended criteria for reopening.
Just this month, Florida shattered the single-day record for the highest number of new coronavirus cases and later broke the record for the highest number of deaths. California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all indoor restaurants and bars to close down amid a sharp increase in new cases, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey imposed a statewide mask mandate as well.
A number of other southern and southwestern states have also reported alarming spikes in new cases in recent weeks, and many have reimplemented lockdown and social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Trump, meanwhile, has seen a corresponding decline in his polling among Americans, who have overwhelmingly said they trust Biden over him when it comes to critical issues like responding to the outbreak and rebooting the economy.
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