U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, a full reversal of his initially dismissive attitude toward face coverings.
During an interview, CBS News’ Catherine Herridge asked the president whether there should be a federal mandate on wearing masks or if it should be left to governors to decide. Trump responded that governors go by guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and “that’s good.”
When asked whether he would urge Americans to wear masks, Trump replied: “If it‘s necessary, I would urge them to wear a mask and I would say follow the guidelines.”
The CDC recommends people wear masks in public settings, and the agency‘s director, Robert Redfield, urged Trump to wear one, as well, to set an example for the rest of the country. Redfield said the coronavirus outbreak could be brought under control if all members of the public wore masks for four to eight weeks.
Trump‘s circle is routinely tested for coronavirus, and visitors and staff to the White House are often seen wearing masks. Redfield said that those factors could allow Trump to justify not wearing a mask, but that the president should still don one to encourage others to follow.
CDC officials also wrote in an editorial on Tuesday that cloth face coverings were vital to fighting coronavirus, and could be particularly effective when all members of a community wore them. The editorial, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said wearing masks could both protect wearers and prevent those with coronavirus from spreading infected droplets.
“When asked to wear face coverings, many people think in terms of personal protection,” the authors wrote. “But face coverings are also widely and routinely used as source control.”
Trump had long refused to wear a mask, even mocking his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden for wearing one during a Memorial Day ceremony. When asked in April whether he would wear a face covering, he responded: “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don‘t see it.“
But as support for wearing masks grew among his adversaries and supporters alike, Trump finally changed his stance and wore a mask during a visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Saturday. He had also been spotted wearing one during a tour of a Ford plant in May, but while he was out of the public eye.
The president had also said during an interview with Fox Business two weeks ago that he was “all for masks. I think masks are good.”