President Donald Trump finally wore a mask in public and in sight of the media on Saturday. As previously announced, the president confirmed he'd follow guidelines during his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. The sight is new for many onlookers and the first he has freely appeared in the mask publicly.
As photos from the hospital show, Trump wore a blue mask with the presidential seal on its left side. It seems comfortably reasonable and something you'd expect a president to do during a pandemic, except you hope it would come at the beginning of the crisis. The decision to wear the mask comes after months of refusal and misinformation over the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has downplayed the spread of the virus many times and made a point not to wear the mask.
This picture should be in the dictionary next to the word failure pic.twitter.com/UXZ7JmGqVH— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) July 11, 2020
Since the start of the pandemic, 3.2 million Americans have been infected by the disease, with 134,000 deaths. According to the AP, the president decided against wearing a mask in the face of these numbers because he didn't want to seem "weak" and wanted to keep focus on economic recovery instead of the health crisis.
His divisive stance on wearing masks helped to fuel many to treat mask-wearing as a political statement, with many encounters going viral in past weeks as some refused masks.
For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, President Trump has been seen by the White House press corps wearing a mask. Today, he's sporting the face covering while visiting wounded troops at Walter Reed Medical Center. pic.twitter.com/shJXuzYhis— Jason Hoffman (@JasonHoffman93) July 11, 2020
President Trump has previously worn a mask during a tour of a Ford plant in Michigan earlier during the pandemic. Despite that earlier moment, the president has faced heavy criticism for refusing to wear a mask amid the pandemic. For many, the president refusing the guidelines sends mixed messages to citizens looking for guidance during a scary time for the nation. It also goes against medical professional recommendations that have evolved since the start of the pandemic.
"People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk," Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNN in an interview.
It remains to be seen if this will be a permanent change for President Trump or if he will return to his stance that it displays weakness. If it is a one-off appearance during his meet-and-greet with patients and medical staff at the hospital, it will be important to remember as the year continues.