United States President Donald Trump wears a mask while visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, July 11, 2020. REUTERS / Tasos Katopodis
BETHESDA, Maryland (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, who avoided wearing a mask in public even when the coronavirus pandemic spread, donned one Saturday at a military medical facility outside Washington where he would meet with wounded soldiers and First line. health workers.
The visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center marked Trump’s first public appearance with a covered face since the virus began spreading across the United States earlier this year.
Trump had previously refused to wear a mask in public or ask other Americans to do so, saying it was a personal choice, though he had said he would if he was in a crowd and unable to keep his distance from others.
“I think when you’re in a hospital, especially in that particular environment when you’re talking to a lot of soldiers, people who in some cases just came off the operating table, I think it’s a great thing to wear a mask,” Trump said. he told reporters at the White House just before his visit to Walter Reed.
At the medical center, Trump walked through the gathered media for a carefully organized photo opportunity with a navy blue mask stamped with a gold embossed Presidential seal. He only said “thank you” when it happened.
Top public health officials have urged the use of masks to slow the spread of the virus, which by Friday had claimed nearly 134,000 American lives. Critics say Trump’s refusal to use one showed a lack of leadership.
Even when other officials in his administration called for the use of masks and social distancing, Trump, who faces re-election in November, pressured states to reopen closed economies.
But since many states relaxed coronavirus restrictions, the virus has found a new foothold. New American cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, increased by more than 69,000 on Friday, a third consecutive daily record.
As of Friday, the number of confirmed infections in the US has exceeded 3 million, according to a Reuters count.
Report from Steve Holland; Tim Ahmann, Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler edition