During a visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump wore a face mask in front of assembled media for the first time.
Though the move was expected and had been trailed in a series of media appearances this week, it was still a noteworthy evolution for the president, who has balked at wearing protective face coverings as a deadly pandemic surged across portions of the U.S.
The navy blue mask with a gold presidential seal emblazoned on the side could be seen as Trump entered the hospital to visit wounded service members and health care workers who have been on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
Military personnel, Secret Service agents and White House staff surrounding the president, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, all wore facial coverings.
In the hospital, Trump continued to wear his mask while speaking with wounded veterans, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere.
However, Trump did not wear a mask while speaking with reporters outside the White House before departing for Walter Reed, where he further explained his rationale behind wearing a covering after telling Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday he expected to wear one during the visit.
“I think when you’re in a hospital, especially in that particular setting, where you’re talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables, 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.” , said Trump to the reporters.
The president stressed this week he didn’t believe masks were necessary in areas where frequent testing was available and social distancing practices followed.
Trump’s decision to wear a face covering comes after repeated calls from public health experts and lawmakers urging the president to set an example as infection rates rise in many Sunbelt states, many of which remain crucial to his re-election.
Arizona, Florida and Texas set record numbers of hospitalizations on Friday, while the U.S. set a new single-day record of nearly 64,000 coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Health officials have criticized the Southern states’ Republican governors for following the White House’s lead and re-opening too early, an action they believe is largely to blame for the rise in infections.
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, who recently instituted a new statewide mask order after previously being opposed to one, warned the state could lock down again if its residents didn’t adhere to the mandate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that “people wear cloth face coverings in public settings” to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, saying that masks serve as a barrier to stop droplets that contain the virus.
An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday found that a record 67 percent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s response to the pandemic, while 79 percent support wearing a face mask in an enclosed public space, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll.
Trump’s marks for his management of the crisis has also steadily dropped among Republicans and independents, constituencies key to his reelection in November, the ABC poll found.
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