US President Donald Trump, who has long opposed covering his face in public, says he is “all for masks” and they make him look like the Lone Ranger.
Trump also said that facial coverage does not have to become mandatory to contain the spread of Covid-19.
He again predicted that the infection would “go away”, with the US reaching a new record of 52,000 virus cases in one day.
His statements to Fox News come a day after a top Republican asked Trump to use a mask as an example.
The United States now has nearly 2.7 million infections confirmed by Covid-19 and more than 128,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is monitoring the pandemic.
What did the president say?
Speaking to Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Trump said, “I am in favor of masks.”
When asked if he would use one, the president said: “If I were in a tight situation with people, I would use it absolutely”. He added that people have seen him use one before.
Trump said he would have “no problem” wearing a mask publicly and that he “kind of liked” how he looked like, comparing himself to Lone Ranger, a fictional masked hero who with his Native American friend, Tonto, fugitives from war in the old American west.
But the president reiterated that he did not think it necessary to make facial coatings in the USA, because “there are many places in the country where people are very long distances”.
“If people feel good about it, they should do it.”
Trump was also asked in his interview with Fox Business on Wednesday whether he still believes the coronavirus will “disappear” someday.
“Yes,” he said. “I know. Yes, absolutely. Sometime.”
During Trump’s upcoming Independence Day celebration on July 3 at Mount Rushmore, his supporters will not be forced to wear masks or social distance.
What did Trump say earlier about masks?
When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in April began recommending people to use masks or blankets in public to help stop the virus from spreading, Trump told reporters he would not follow the practice.
“I don’t think I’m going to do that,” he said at the time. “Wearing a face mask, I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I just don’t see her.”
But Trump has repeatedly emphasized that choosing to follow official health guidelines on masks is a personal decision.
Last month, he told the Wall Street Journal that some people only wore masks as a political statement against him.
In May, during a visit to a factory in Michigan, he told reporters that he took off a facial cover before looking at the cameras because he “did not want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it”.
The White House defended the choice of the president, saying that everyone in contact with him is tested frequently for coronavirus, just like Trump himself.
The daughter of the president and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, was also seen wearing a mask in public.
What are politicians saying?
Trump is often criticized by Democrats for underestimating the need to wear masks and politicize the idea.
More recently, however, Republicans and the president’s conservative media have joined calls for wearing masks.
They include Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the US Covid-19 task force, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Mitt Romney and Congressman Liz Cheney.
On Tuesday, Republican Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said it was unfortunate that “this simple, life-saving practice has become part of a political debate that says’ if you are for Trump, don’t wear a mask, if it’s against Trump, you do it “.
On the same day, U.S. infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci told lawmakers that new American cases could reach 100,000 a day, and that there are not enough Americans wearing masks or social detachment.
Recent outbreaks have led several states to reverse or pause the reopening plans. About 20 states have determined the use of masks in public.