Trump urges Americans to wear face masks in public to fight coronavirus — but says he ‘won’t be doing it’
President Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the White House briefing room Friday.(Alex Brandon/AP)
President Trump is not leading by example.
The commander-in-chief urged all Americans on Friday to wear face masks in public as part of an aggressive effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak — but he has no plans to follow his own advice.
Speaking at his daily COVID-19 briefing at the White House, Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had concluded after much study that all people in the U.S. should wear “a basic cloth or fabric mask" whenever they go outside. He said such non-professional grade masks can be purchased online or made at home.
But Trump quickly shot his own recommendations in the foot.
“So it’s voluntary, you don’t have to do it,” Trump said. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
Asked why he doesn’t want to set a good example, Trump said he couldn’t picture himself greeting world leaders or “dictators” while wearing a face mask.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself,” he said. “I just don’t want to do it. Sitting in the Oval Office, behind the great, beautiful Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, dictators, kings queens — I just don’t see it for myself.”
He stressed, “I won’t be doing it personally. It’s a recommendation.”
Friday’s announcement capped an evolution in messaging from the White House that officials acknowledged has been confusing and marred by contradiction and misinformation, even as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. tops 270,000, with at least 7,000 people dead.
On Thursday, Trump claimed some 100,000 ventilators were coming to hospitals across the nation within two weeks — only for Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to clarify that the bulk of those machines may not be ready until June.
Some cities had already announced face mask recommendations before Trump’s halfhearted announcement, including New York and Los Angeles.
The CDC said in its new guidelines that wide-ranging face mask usage could help fight the virus, as people can have the infection and spread it without showing symptoms.
People should not attempt to acquire professional-grade masks, such as N95s, as those are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers, according to the guidelines.
Speaking at the same briefing as Trump, CDC Director Robert Redfield noted that social distancing remains the most important weapon in the war against the virus.
Contrary to Trump, though, Redfield did not say he would buck the new mask guidelines and urged Americans to follow them.
“We know a face barrier can interrupt the number of particles that can go from one person to another,” Redfield said. “The purpose of this face covering is to be another adjunctive mitigation strategy to protect someone spreading the virus from themselves to someone else.”
Friday's announcement capped an evolution in messaging from the White House that officials acknowledged has at times been confusing.
First lady Melania Trump embodied the ever-changing messaging with a tweet saying, “As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously."