The Trump campaign sent an email to supporters on Wednesday urging them to wear face masks in public, saying doing so was “patriotic” ― after the US president spent months demeaning the use of face coverings as a political act against him.
“We are all in this together, and while I know there has been some confusion surrounding the usage of face masks, I think it’s something we should all try to do when we are not able to be socially distanced from others,” the email, typically sent to request contributions, said. “I don’t love wearing them either. Masks may be good, they may be just okay, or they may be great.”
The missive doesn’t note that President Donald Trump himself had until recently added to that confusion even as the coronavirus pandemic surged around the nation following a spate of reopening measures. The president has at times mocked presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for wearing a mask and initially said in April that he just didn’t “see it” for himself when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that masks be worn in public.
More than 155,000 people have died in the US since the pandemic began, and more than 4.7 million have tested positive for COVID-19. Cases began to surge after many states, at Trump’s urging, reopened businesses and relaxed social distancing requirements. Many of those regions were forced to roll back such measures amid skyrocketing rates of infection.
The nation’s top medical advisers have been urging citizens to wear masks in public when social distancing can’t be maintained. The CDC last month said the coverings were a “critical tool in the fight against COVID-19” last month, saying all Americans “have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” the agency’s director, Robert Redfield, said at the time. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus ― particularly when used universally within a community setting.
Trump has been forced to acknowledge that he can’t rein in the pandemic through sheer force of will. The president canceled the portion of the Republican National Convention scheduled to take place this month in Jacksonville, Florida, over concerns about the virus, and he has been wearing masks more frequently while out in public.
“My feeling is, we have nothing to lose, and possibly everything to gain, including the next chapter to our country,” the president said in the supporter email. “I recently tweeted that many view wearing a mask as a patriotic act, and there is no one more patriotic than me and you. Why not give it a shot!”