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The US president said on Wednesday that “I think masks are good” in an interview with Fox Business, and claimed that if he were in “a tight situation with people” then he would “absolutely” wear a face mask or covering.
He added that when he had put masks on previously – presumably in private – that he “liked the way I looked”.
Trump said that the reason he doesn’t wear a mask in public appearances is because he maintains an appropriate distance from other people.
He also claimed that people are tested for Covid-19 before they are allowed to see him.
The president’s change in tone was echoed by senior Republican figures, too.
Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, said that wearing a face mask is “the single easiest thing we can do” to “protect ourselves and others”.
The president’s remarks are a far cry from previous comments he’s made during the pandemic.
In May, for instance, he criticised Reuters journalist Jeff Mason for wearing a face covering, claiming that doing so is “politically correct”.
In any case, it’s likely that Trump’s recent U-turn on masks is a reflection on mounting pressure as he embarks on a reelection campaign.
Americans are due to go to the polls this November as they vote for who should sit in the White House next.
READ: Queen phones Donald Trump just hours after president’s attacks on female leaders
The leading Democratic nominee is Joe Biden, who has been sliding ahead in the polls in recent weeks.
Tennessee Republican senator Lamar Alexander warned that the debate over wearing masks could prove harmful to Trump’s reputation in the lead-up to the election.
He said in a Senate hearing that “the stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump anti-Trump mask to continue”, according to ABC.
And he added that he has “suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask”.
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Sen. Alexander highlighted Centres for Disease Control and Prevention advice, which states that: “Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
“Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants).”
One of the most high-profile incidents in which Trump refused to wear a mask – and faced backlash – was during a tour of carmaker Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Michigan.
At one stage of the tour the president stopped to talk to reporters, who asked him why he was not wearing a mask at that time despite Ford executives – who were standing nearby and in view of the camera – wearing them.
Trump said that wearing a mask was “not necessary”, and claimed that “everybody’s been tested”.
However, he said that he did have a mask on in another part of the tour where officials asked him to.
Trump has been at pains to avoid being photographed or seen in public wearing a face mask or covering.
However, NBC News tweeted a photo from an anonymous source on May 22 that appeared to show Trump wearing a dark face mask with a presidential emblem on the side during one part of the Ford plant tour.
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