Elected Republicans as senior as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have urged Americans in recent days to wear masks outside their homes if they are unable to socially distance. Health experts within the Trump administration have stressed the same recommendations.
“It is critical that we all take personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid and embrace the universal use of face coverings,” Robert Redfield, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told congressional lawmakers Tuesday.
But the president himself remains resistant to donning a face covering during public appearances, mocking a reporter who wore one during a White House news conference in May and describing masks as a “double-edge sword” in an interview with The Wall Street Journal just two weeks ago.
Trump’s dismissive attitude toward masks has elicited consistent rebukes from top Democratic congressional leaders and former Vice President Joe Biden, his presumptive general election opponent, who have signaled support for a national directive requiring all Americans to wear masks.
“We absolutely need a clear message from the very top of our federal government that everyone needs to wear a mask in public. Period. Period,” Biden said Tuesday during a speech in Wilmington, Del., focused on Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
“It’s a simple measure. It’s also one of the most effective ways we can do the right thing,” he added. “It may be inconvenient. It may be uncomfortable. But it’s the right thing to do as an American. Protect your co-workers and neighbors.”
Eighty percent of registered voters polled by Fox News earlier this month have a favorable view of mask-wearers, and 89 percent of Americans said they had covered their face in public in the previous week, according to an ABC News/Ipsos survey published last Thursday.
The latest entreaties by GOP officials are in response to spikes in new coronavirus cases cropping up throughout the American South, including in the nation’s most populous states: California, Florida and Texas. The U.S. as a whole has similarly registered single-day records in new infections over the past week, and governors have been forced to pause their states’ reopening plans.
The president has not made any marked effort to encourage mask use amid the precipitous climbs in caseloads, instead insistently emphasizing the need to jump-start the national economy.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, however, argued Tuesday that personal mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing were helpful tools to prevent another spate of financially draining stay-at-home orders.
A report by Goldman Sachs economists released Monday suggested that a national mask mandate “could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract” nearly 5 percent of country’s gross domestic product.
“For my home state, I do believe in wearing masks. I do not want to shut the economy back down,” the California Republican told “Fox & Friends.” He also agreed with Doocy’s assessment that it would be a “powerful symbol” for Trump to wear a mask in public.
“It would,” McCarthy said. “I mean, for the Fourth of July, we could all show our patriotism with a red, white and blue mask, going out there and showing some strength.”
Even Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, appeared to come around Tuesday to the concept of face coverings after officials in Jacksonville — the Florida city where the Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held in August — announced a mask requirement for indoor public places.
“I think we’re going to make sure that everything is done in a safe and appropriate manner,” Trump Jr. told Fox Business. “You know, I don’t think that it’s too complicated to wear a mask or wash your hands and follow basic hygiene protocols.”