The wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has become a health imperative for most, and a political statement for some, but Donald Trump seems adamant not to wear one — reportedly because he thinks he would look ridiculous.
Mr Trump has been mask averse for weeks. Within minutes of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing its updated mask recommendations, he said, “I don’t think that I’m going to be doing it.”
The Associated Press reports that Mr Trump has told advisors he believes wearing one would “send the wrong message,” according to one administration and two campaign officials not authorised to publicly discuss private conversations.
The president reportedly feels it would look like he is preoccupied with health instead of focused on reopening the nation’s economy — which his aides believe is the key to his reelection chances.
Mr Trump, who is known to be especially concerned about his appearance on television, has also told confidants that he fears he would look ridiculous in a mask and the image would appear in negative ads.
This week Trump was barefaced when he spoke to masked journalists, workers and Secret Service agents at an Arizona factory that manufactures masks.
He later said he briefly wore a mask backstage but took it off because facility personnel told him he didn’t need it.
Traditionally, the president, or any other head of state or elected official, would set an example through their actions, but Trump has even left those around him unsure how to proceed.
White House aides say the president hasn’t told them not to wear them, but few do. Some Republican allies have asked Trump’s campaign how it would be viewed by the White House if they were spotted wearing a mask.
“It’s a vanity thing, I guess, with him,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Trump on MSNBC. “You’d think, as the president of the United States, you would have the confidence to honour the guidance he’s giving the country.”
House minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday that he himself wears a mask when near others but said of Trump: “The president has his doctor around him all the time” and makes “sure what he does is correct.”
Meanwhile, first lady Melania Trump has tweeted and filmed a video explaining the importance of wearing a mask; vice president Mike Pence admitted he was wrong not to wear one during a visit to the Mayo Clinic; and the president’s reelection campaign has ordered red Trump-branded masks for supporters and is considering giving them away at events or in return for donations.
The mixed messages coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania have worried some health officials as stay-at-home orders are relaxed in many states and more and more people begin to return to public spaces.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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