President Trump on Monday tweeted for the first time a photograph of himself wearing a mask and described the practice as a patriotic act amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon, referring to the coronavirus, which the president regularly points out originated in Wuhan, China.
“There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!” he added.
The tweet represented perhaps Trump’s most explicit endorsement of the use of masks yet and marks a shift for the president from earlier during the pandemic. Trump for months resisted wearing a mask in public before donning one during a trip to Walter Reed less than two weeks ago. The picture tweeted by the president on Monday was taken during that trip and shows Trump wearing a mask decorated with a presidential seal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April recommended Americans wear a face covering in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But the debate over wearing a mask and whether governments should mandate that Americans do so has been marred by partisanship.
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That’s begun to change in recent weeks, however. While some Republicans have continued to refuse to wear masks, others have appeared in public wearing face coverings and urge others to do the same, including first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Pence. Other Republicans and conservative media personalities have also promoted the use of masks in recent weeks, and some explicitly urged Trump to wear one in order to set an example.
A number of governors — including a growing list of GOP state leaders — have mandated the use of masks in public places in order to address recent surges in coronavirus cases, though some like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) have opposed mask orders and gone as far as prohibiting cities from imposing their own.
Trump told Fox News’s Chris Wallace that he would not issue a national mandate requiring Americans to wear face coverings.
“I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no,” Trump said in an interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday.”
The president also continued to downplay the threat from the virus in the interview.
The Hill said, Trump is facing growing public disapproval over his handling of the coronavirus, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 140,000 people in the U.S. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
Monday’s tweet came hours after Trump suggested he would shift his messaging strategy and return to giving regular coronavirus briefings, which the White House jettisoned at the end of April after the president made controversial comments about the possible use of disinfectant to treat COVID-19.