After long resisting wearing a face mask in public during the coronavirus pandemic, US President Donald Trump has now struck a different tone, saying he is in favour of the protective covering.
“I’m all for masks. I think masks are good,” Trump told Fox Business in an interview on Wednesday.
The Republican president’s comments came a day after politicians from his party suggested he wear a mask in public to set a good example as the number of daily coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded 50,000 for the first time on Wednesday
“If I were in a tight situation with people, I would absolutely,” Trump said in the interview, adding that people have seen him wearing a mask before.
Yet, Trump has faced criticism for refusing to wear a mask, whether at the White House where officials and aides are tested regularly, or in public settings.
The president did not wear a mask when he visited a medical swab manufacturing plant in Maine on June 5 to tout increased production of testing supplies. In May, he was briefly required to wear a mask while visiting a Ford manufacturing plant in Michigan but took it off before he appeared in front of media cameras.
“I don’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump said at the time.
In early April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other physical distancing measures were difficult to maintain.
Trump immediately undercut the CDC guidance by flatly stating that he would not be following it, suggesting it would be unseemly for the commander-in-chief to wear a mask as he meets with heads of state.
But on Wednesday, he sounded a different tone, saying he liked the way he looked wearing it.
“It looked like the Lone Ranger,” he said, a reference to the fictional law-and-order character who wore a black eye mask. “I have no problem with that, and if people feel good about it, they should do it.”
Cases have been spiking again in the US, which leads the world both in confirmed coronavirus cases and related deaths, at more than 2.6 million and 128,000, respectively.
In recent days, many Republicans and members of the White House coronavirus task force have been more outspoken in advocating for people in the US to wear face masks in public settings as infections have surged in the country’s south and west including in the states of Texas and California.
Last month, the World Health Organization updated its guidance on face masks, recommending they should be worn in public areas where there is a risk of transmission and physical distancing is not possible.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, said last week he would pursue a federal mask mandate if elected. In the Fox interview, Trump suggested a federal mandate was unnecessary and continued to frame mask-wearing as a matter of choice.
Even so, Trump criticised Biden for wearing a mask while being some distance away from his audience and for speaking through the covering at times.
“When there’s nobody around, I don’t see any reason to be wearing it,” Trump said in a separate interview on Wednesday on “America This Week”.