President Trump says he will not issue a national mandate requiring Americans to wear masks in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace that will air in full on “Fox News Sunday.”
Trump also seemed to express skepticism about the efficacy of masks, noting that public health officials initially said that facial coverings were not necessary for healthy individuals, before later adding that he is a “believer in masks.”
“I don’t agree with the statement that if everyone wore a mask, everything disappears,” Trump said, referring to Wallace’s mention of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that the country could get the virus under control in four to six weeks 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 continued. “And as you know, masks cause problems too. With that being said, I am a believer in masks. I think masks are good.”
The CDC in April recommended the use of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus after evidence showed that patients not showing symptoms could still spread COVID-19 .
Trump wore a mask for the first time in public over the weekend during a trip to Walter Reed, after resisting doing so for many weeks. When the Trump administration first rolled out the guidance in April, Trump immediately said he wouldn’t wear a face covering, at one point suggesting it would lead to poor optics with foreign leaders.
Republicans and conservative media personalities have rallied around the use of masks in recent weeks as an effective way to halt the spread of the virus and allow businesses to reopen to revive the U.S. economy.
A number of governors, local leaders and businesses have mandated the use of masks, as coronavirus cases have surged in various states.
In Georgia, however, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has encouraged the use of masks but barred local officials from imposing mask orders. Kemp on Thursday announced plans to sue Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) over the city’s mask requirement, amid a surge in cases in the state.
Florida, the site of next month’s Republican National Convention, has also been among the states seeing a massive increase in cases, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has thus far refused calls to issue a mask mandate. Other states seeing spikes, such as Texas and California, have issued mask orders to help control the spread of the virus.
Trump previously suggested he did not see the need for a mandatory mask policy in an interview with Fox Business during which he also endorsed the use of face coverings, saying he is “all for masks.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said earlier this month that a national mask mandate was “not in order,” describing such decisions as a “state-to-state issue.”