President Trump changed his rhetoric on wearing masks in a press conference Tuesday, saying that “they have an impact.” Mr. Trump’s comments came as dozens of states and the District of Columbia experience a rise in coronavirus infections.
Mr. Trump spoke about the worsening crisis in a briefing that came the day after the president announced he would revive White House coronavirus task force briefings, which were a near-daily staple throughout much of March and into April before tapering off in favor of White House events focused on resurrecting the ailing economy.
Mr. Trump urged Americans to wear a mask in the briefing. He largely resisted wearing a mask in public for months and downplayed their importance but tweeted a picture of himself wearing one on Monday.
“Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. He later added that he “will use it gladly, no problem with it.” He also commented on the development of vaccines, saying that “the vaccines are coming and they’re coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible.” However, the president warned that there could be a surge in cases in the near future.
“Some areas of country doing very well, others doing less well. It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better. I don’t like saying that, but that’s the way it is,” Mr. Trump said.
Still, he painted a mostly positive picture of the response to the pandemic, saying that the U.S. had produced “thousands” of ventilators per day and arguing that the American response had been “better than most.” He also claimed that none of the 50 governors in the country “need anything right now” to address new outbreaks.
“We are stocked up and ready to go,” Mr. Trump said. He also reiterated his belief that “the virus will disappear” and said “we’re all responsible” when asked if he takes responsibility for the death toll from the virus. The president also said he would be doing these briefings more often.
Mr. Trump was not accompanied by other members of the White House coronavirus task force, such as Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, or Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Asked on where members of the task force were during his press conference, Mr. Trump replied, “Dr. Birx is right outside.”
Fauci told CBS News Tuesday afternoon that he had not heard anything about attending the briefing. He was sidelined from a task force briefing, led by Vice President Pence, at the Department of Education earlier this month, but appeared at a subsequent press briefing days later.
There have now been more than 3.8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, and more than 140,000 people have died due to the virus, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. Trump has been urging states to reopen their economies and schools despite rising cases.