Washington, US | XINHUA | U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he won’t issue an order at the national level mandating the use of masks, even as the United States continued to break its single-day coronavirus case record amid a pandemic far from being contained, and whether to wear masks has become a source of heated debate.
Asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace if he would consider issuing a national mask mandate to slow the spread of the virus, Trump said: “No, I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no,” according to a clip of the Fox News Sunday show, the full version of which will be aired Sunday.
“I don’t agree with the statement that if everyone wore a mask, everything disappears,” the president added, as Wallace pointed out that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the virus would be brought under control if everyone wore a mask.
“Dr. (Anthony) Fauci said don’t wear a mask, our surgeon general — terrific guy — said don’t wear a mask. Everybody was saying don’t wear a mask, all of a sudden everybody’s got to wear a mask,” Trump said. “And as you know, masks cause problems too. With that being said, I am a believer in masks. I think masks are good.”
Trump has been refusing to wear a mask himself since the pandemic broke out, citing his good health and frequent negative tests for the virus.
He was seen wearing a mask in public for the first time on July 11 while visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, some three months after the CDC recommended that Americans do so because asymptomatic bearers of the virus could still transmit it to others.
Along with the surge in coronavirus cases — topping 3.5 million after the mind-boggling single-day record of 72,045 infections was set on Thursday, as per CDC’s data — the mask issue has been politicized to the extent that it has become a symbol of allegiance: Those refusing to wear masks support Trump while those donning them are against him.
Earlier in July, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also said the option of a national mask mandate was not on the table. He told the “Fox & Friends” program on July 6 that “a national mandate is not in order. We’re allowing our governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that.”
In recent weeks, though, even Republicans have rallied around wearing masks, with at least one GOP lawmaker bluntly suggesting that Trump himself do so publicly.
Regretting the fact that the “simple lifesaving practice” of wearing a mask has been politicized to showcase whether one supports Trump or not, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said on June 30 that he had “suggested the president should occasionally wear a mask even though there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so.”
Meanwhile, governors and municipal-level officials have requested that residents wear masks to halt the virus resurgence.
While the governors of Arkansas, California and Colorado have issued mask mandates effective across their respective states, Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s order applies to residents of counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases, effectively covering most counties in the state.
In Georgia, however, Republican Governor Brian Kemp and state Attorney General Chris Carr, also a Republican, sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, and the Atlantic City Council to block the mayor’s mask mandate, claiming that such an order put businesses in harm’s way and undermined the state’s economic growth, and that local orders must not exceed the state’s executive order in restrictiveness.
The lawsuit, filed one day after Kemp issued an executive order overriding all local mask mandates in the state, intensified a partisan fight over how to handle the public health crisis in a state that is among the first to reopen. Georgia saw a resurgence of the virus, with the seven-day average of caseload recently hovering around 3,000 per day.