President Donald Trump wore a mask in public during a visit to a military hospital Saturday, after months of refusing to be seen doing so in public.
“I’ll probably have a mask if you must know. I’ll probably have a mask. I think when you’re in a hospital especially in that particular setting, where you are talking to a lot of soldiers, people that in some cases just got off the operating table. I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask. I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” Trump told reporters ahead of his visit.
Trump had refused to wear a mask in public — he said he wore it once out of public view — triggering a political war about facial coverings, with many conservatives around the country following his lead. Many Republican-ruled states had refused to make it mandatory — such as Texas — until recently, when it was hit by a brutal spike in Covid-19 cases.
Trump’s top public health officials such as Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, members of the task force he set up to spearhead his administration’s battle against the virus, began recommending it urgently, along with social distancing measures, as the best bed to slow down the spread.
During a Fox News interview Thursday, Trump teased his visit to Walter Reed, saying, “I expect to be wearing a mask when I go into Walter Reed. You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing.”
Masks have become a political flash point as some Americans argue the requirement infringes upon their civil liberties. But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to wear a “cloth face cover when they have to go out in public,” noting that masks are critical in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain since the coronavirus can spread between asymptomatic people and through respiratory droplets in the air.