Trump wears a mask in public for the first time on visit to Walter Reed Medical Center to visit wounded veterans after ‘pressure from aides amid surging COVID-19 cases nationwide’
- The president visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Saturday
- Trump was photographed at the medical facility wearing a face mask openly for the first time
- Aides ‘pleaded’ with president to be photographed in a mask, CNN reported, amid fears of COVID’s spread
- He has usually declined to do so, but on May 21 he wore a face mask in Michigan to visit a Ford factory
- Trump arrived at the medical facility at 5:24pm, saw patients, and took off for the White House at 6:25pm
Donald Trump has donned a face mask to visit recuperating military personnel at the Walter Reed military hospital, in a rare nod to the coronavirus pandemic.
Health experts agree that face masks are useful at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The president has repeatedly shrugged off suggestions of wearing a mask, saying that it causes people to touch their face too much and so is not helpful.
Trump told Fox News on Thursday that he would wear a face mask during the trip.
Donald Trump on Saturday wore a face mask to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland
‘I’m going to Walter Reed to see some of our great soldiers who have been injured,’ he told Sean Hannity.
‘Badly injured. And also see some of our Covid workers, people who have such a great job.
More than 3.1 million people have now died of COVID in U.S.
‘And I expect to be wearing a mask when I go into Walter Reed. You’re in a hospital so I think it’s a very appropriate thing.’
The Walter Reed website includes guidance that states visitors ‘are expected to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth upon entering and while moving about the facility… when not able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.’
Trump flew from the White House on Saturday afternoon, touching down at the medical facility at 5:24pm and leaving Marine One a few minutes later.
Marine One left the South Lawn of the White House at 5:14pm, en route to the Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland
The president was seen arriving at the medical facility at 5:24pm. President Trump was not wearing a mask on arrival
He spent about 40 minutes with patients and staff in a closed-door session.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, issued a statement saying: ‘President Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit brave combat wounded service members and their families as well as healthcare staff who have been caring for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.’
The president wrapped his visit inside the hospital at about 6:10pm, and Marine Force One flew him back to the White House at 6:25pm.
Trump’s decision to model a mask in public view and tout it during a Fox News interview Thursday night came after a quiet lobbying campaign by some White House aides and political advisers, aides familiar with the discussions told CNN.
Some of his aides were reportedly concerned by the sight of so many maskless Trump supporters at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month and worried by the surge of coronavirus cases in the South.
Swathes of the southern and western United States are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases rocket in a disturbing trend
All of those present with the president were photographed wearing face masks
Pictured before leaving the White House on Saturday, the president was not wearing a mask
One presidential adviser described the effort as more than a week of ‘lots of negotiation’ and repeated ‘pleading’ by aides who urged the president to set an example for his supporters by wearing a mask on the visit.
Until this week, Trump had resisted that coaxing, in part because he is tested daily and views it as an unnecessary step and also because he has not wanted to give into media criticism and pressure.
‘I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,’ Trump said during a May visit to a Ford plant in Michigan, where he refused to wear a mask in view of the press in defiance of Ford rules.
He did don the mask when he thought people were not looking.
Trump was caught on camera, away from the press, wearing a mask on May 21 in Michigan
He showed off the mask to press during the Michigan trip, but did not want photos wearing it
Trump’s visit to Walter Reed Saturday will come just hours before he rallies his supporters in New Hampshire – a rally scheduled for Friday evening, but postponed due to poor weather.
Advisers hope his decision to wear a mask will encourage rally attendees to do the same.
The Trump campaign is now ‘strongly encouraging’ attendees to wear masks – a notable difference from Trump’s political events over the past several weeks, where mask-wearing was scarce and few steps were taken to encourage it.
He has refused requests to make masks mandatory at his events.
‘It’s fine to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable,’ he said.
A Trump political adviser told CNN the president is not in favor of forcing people to wear them.
‘That is the president. He does not want to say it,’ the adviser said.