After having declined to wear a mask at pressers, COVID-19 task-force updates and rallies for over three months, US President Donald Trump was seen wearing a mask in public for the first time during his visit to a military hospital in suburban Washington on Saturday (July 12).
Trump flew by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to meet wounded service members and health care providers caring for COVID-19 patients. As he left the White House, he told reporters, “When you’re in a hospital, especially… I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask.”
However, Trump was not wearing the mask when he stepped off the helicopter at the facility. The president was a latecomer to wearing a mask during the pandemic, which has raged across the US since March and infected more than 3.2 million and killed at least 134,000.
Even, most prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, endorsed wearing masks as COVID-19 gained ground this summer. Republican governors have been moving toward requiring or encouraging the use of masks as the pandemic has grown more serious in some states in the South and West.
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) July 11, 2020
People close to him had told The Associated Press that the president feared a mask would make him look weak and was concerned that it shifted focus to the public health crisis rather than the economic recovery.
While not wearing one himself, Trump has sent mixed signals about masks, acknowledging that they would be appropriate if worn in an indoor setting where people were close together.
But he has accused reporters of wearing them to be politically correct and has retweeted messages making fun of Democrat Joe Biden for wearing a mask and implying that Biden looks weak. Questions remain whether Trump will wear a mask with any regularity.
The wearing of masks became another political dividing line, with Republicans more resistant to wearing them than Democrats. Few masks were seen at recent Trump campaign events in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Phoenix and South Dakotas Mount Rushmore.
(With inputs from agencies)