2 Jul 2020

Trump refers to Lone Ranger in mask about-face

2:48 pm on 2 July 2020

President Donald Trump, who has often pushed back against mask guidance from health officials, says he would wear one "in a tight situation with people".

US President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump now says he is all for masks, after previously saying they were a political statement against him. Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP

Trump - who has avoided appearing in public with a mask - also maintained face coverings do not need to become mandatory to curb Covid-19's spread.

His remarks to Fox News come a day after a top Republican called on Trump to wear a mask as an example.

A number of states are seeing surges in virus cases and deaths in recent days.

The US now has over 2.6 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and more than 127,000 deaths.

'No problem' wearing a mask

Speaking to Fox Business Network on today, Trump said: "I'm all for masks."

When asked whether he would wear one, the president said: "If I were in a tight situation with people I would, absolutely." He added that people have seen him wearing one before.

Trump said he would have "no problem" with wearing a mask publicly and that he "sort of liked" how he looked with one on, likening himself to the Lone Ranger.

But the president reiterated that he did not think making face-coverings mandatory across the United States was needed, because there are "many places in the country where people stay very long distance".

"If people feel good about it they should do it."

Trump was also asked in his Fox Business interview if he still believes coronavirus will "disappear" someday.

"I do," he said. "I do. Yeah sure. At some point."

During Trump's forthcoming Independence Day celebration on 3 July at Mount Rushmore, his supporters in attendance will not be forced to wear masks or socially distance.

What has Trump previously said about masks?

When the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in April began recommending people wear masks or cloth coverings in public to help stop the spread of the virus, Trump told reporters he would not follow the practice.

"I don't think I'm going to be doing it," he said at the time. "Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens - I just don't see it."

But Trump has repeatedly emphasised that choosing to follow the official health guidance around masks is a personal decision.

Last month, he told the Wall Street Journal that some people only wear masks as a political statement against him.

In May, during a visit to a factory in Michigan, he told reporters he took off a facial covering before facing the cameras because he "didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it".

The White House has defended the president's choice by saying everyone in contact with him is tested frequently for coronavirus, and so is Trump himself.

The president's daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, has also been spotted wearing a mask in public.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll found that in the last week, 89 percent of Americans said they wore a mask or face covering outside their home in the last week - a 20-point jump from mid-April.

Democrats criticise the president

Trump has often been criticised by Democrats for downplaying the need to wear masks and politicising the idea.

But more recently, the president's fellow Republicans and conservative media have joined the calls in favour of mask wearing.

They include Vice-President Mike Pence, who heads the US Covid-19 task force, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Mitt Romney and congresswoman Liz Cheney.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 19: Vice President Mike Pence wears a mask as he departs the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after meeting with him at the U.S. Capitol on May 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Vice-President Mike Pence wears a mask as he departs the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

On Tuesday, Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said it was unfortunate that "this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says 'if you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask, if you're against Trump, you do'."

The same day, US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci told lawmakers new American cases could reach 100,000 per day, and not enough Americans were wearing masks or social distancing.

The recent surges have led to a number of states reversing or pausing reopening plans. About 20 states have mandated mask wearing in public.

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