President Donald Trump on Monday seemed to give mask-wearing his strongest endorsement yet after months of wavering over whether people should don face coverings in public to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
"We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance," Trump tweeted. "There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!"
It has been more than three months since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended wearing masks in public to help stop spread of the coronavirus. For much of that time, the president pushed back on wearing masks as the practice became an increasingly political issue.
Even recently, the president's mask message has been muddled. In an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace that aired Sunday, Trump said he would not consider a national mask order because "I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that."
"No, and I don't agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask, everything disappears," he said, adding, "Masks cause problems, too."
"With that being said, I'm a believer in masks. I think masks are good," he continued. "But I leave it up to the governors. Many of the governors are changing. They're more mask into — they like the concept of masks, but some of them don't agree."
Following weeks of refusal to be seen publicly wearing a mask, Trump this month wore a black face covering during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. He had worn a mask during a visit in May to a Ford plant in Michigan, but he did not wear it in front of cameras because he did not "want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," he said.
In an interview with Fox Business after his trip to Walter Reed, Trump sounded more upbeat about masks because he "sort of like the way I looked."
"It looked like the Lone Ranger," he said. "I have no problem with that, and if people feel good about it, they should do it."
Shortly beforehand, Trump announced that he will resume regular coronavirus briefings starting Tuesday as polling shows the public's view of the administration's pandemic response worsening.
"We had very successful briefings. I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching — record numbers watching in the history of cable television," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, speaking about the briefings in March and April, which ended soon after he speculated about whether injecting disinfectants could combat the coronavirus.
More than 3.7 million cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have been confirmed in the U.S., with more than 141,000 deaths, according to an NBC News tracker. Cases have been spiking in large parts of the country in recent weeks, particularly throughout the South.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has jumped out to a nearly 9-point lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics polling average, with Biden also taking a lead in key swing states. Last month, Biden said he would require people nationwide to wear masks in public if he is elected president.
Trump previously promoted a tweet mocking Biden for wearing a mask.