President Donald Trump said he has “no problem” wearing a mask, carries one with him and wears it when riding in elevators with Secret Service agents to protect them.
Speaking in his first press briefing devoted to the pandemic in months, the president offered a more robust defense of wearing a mask in public for protection against the novel coronavirus.
“I carry it,” Trump said on Tuesday. “And I will use it, gladly, no problem with it.”
Trump wore a mask in public for the first time on July 11 during a visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, and on Monday tweeted an image of himself in a mask, calling the act “patriotic.” But later that night, he was photographed at his Washington, D.C., hotel in close proximity with others without a mask.
“I say, when you can, use the mask. When you can, use the mask. If you’re close to each other, if you’re in a group, I would put it on,” Trump told reporters.
“If I’m in an elevator, and there are other people with me – including, like, security people, it’s not their fault, they have to be in the elevator, I want to protect them also – I put on a mask,” he said. “I have no problem with the masks. I view it this way: anything that can potentially help, and that certainly could potentially help, is a good thing.”
The president struck a somber tone as he warned of a pandemic that would “probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better” as COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the South and Southwest.
Scientists are increasingly confident that spread of the respiratory illness is inhibited by face coverings. But Trump defended his late endorsement of mask-wearing in the pandemic, claiming that infectious disease experts were late to support the idea themselves.
“Think about patriotism – maybe it is. It helps. It helps,” Trump said. “Now, we have experts who have said in the recent past that masks aren’t necessarily good to wear. You know that. But now they’ve changed their mind. If they change their mind, that’s good enough for me, so I wear it when appropriate.”
Top experts on the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asked Americans to refrain from buying masks at the outset of the pandemic when there was a national shortage of the personal protective equipment needed for frontline workers.