On Saturday, President Donald Trump wore a mask in public for the first time during a visit to wounded soldiers and health care workers at Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington.
The debate over masks in the United States has become an increasingly political one, underscored by Trump’s prior refusal to don one in public despite his aides urging him that it was necessary to do so to send a message to Americans.
A June Pew Research Center Poll revealed that more Democrats than Republicans said that they wore masks in public.
Touching on the politicized issue in a Wall Street Journal interview in June, Trump said that some people wear masks to signal their disapproval of him.
On Saturday, Trump told reporters outside the White House on Saturday, before his visit, “I love masks in the appropriate locations.”
He added, “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.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals wear close fitting cloth masks in public to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
A model developed by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected that the nationwide use of masks could prevent between 17,742 to 28,030 deaths in the US before October 1.
With the renewed surge in COVID-19 cases across the nation, more than 20 states now mandate the use of face masks in public. But some states, such as Florida and Arizona, have not issued such orders, despite being two of the hardest hit states.
However, the president has not always been receptive to the CDC’s recommendation that people wear masks in public.
“I don’t think I’m going to be doing it. Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don’t see it,” Trump told reporters in an April news conference he held to announce CDC’s recommendation on mask wearing in public.
Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, criticized the debate on masks as “ridiculous” in an interview with CNN on Saturday.
“The fact that we are still discussing masks is ridiculous. We have to do so much more right now to help slow this terrible onslaught that we are facing from Covid-19. With a steep acceleration, we are going to hit 70,000 cases this week.”
“We have no national plan, national roadmap how to deal with this and how to stop it,” Dr. Hotez added.
The US remains the nation worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 3.2 million cases and 135,000 deaths reported since it first hit the country.
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