President Trump’s resolve may be cracking — at least when it comes to face masks.
On Monday, however, Trump tweeted TWTR, +3.49% a photo of himself wearing a mask with a presidential seal, adding, “Many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.” CNN T, -1.32% reported that the president’s falling poll numbers likely played a role in this decision to wear a mask, and hold a daily 5 p.m. update on the coronavirus pandemic.
On April 3, the Trump administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed their policies on face mask, and said all Americans should wear cloth face coverings and not — as it previously said — just medical workers. President Trump cited “recent studies” of asymptomatic transmission for the U-turn, while the CDC cited “new evidence.”
Unlike New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio‘s mandate to wear masks in stores, however, the federal government’s recommendations are voluntary. What’s more, Trump signaled his resistance to wearing a mask. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,” he said at the time, adding, “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don’t see it.”
During an interview on Fox News on Sunday, journalist Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would introduce a federal mandate to wear face masks in public places where social distancing is not possible. Trump replied, “No, I want people to have a certain freedom,” he said, adding, “I don’t agree with the statement that if everyone wears a mask everything disappears.”
Asked if he takes responsibility for not having a federal policy on coronavirus during the interview, Trump replied, “Look, I take responsibility always for everything because it’s ultimately my job too. I have to get everybody in line. Some governors have done well, some governors have done poorly. We have more testing by fair than any country in the world.”
As of Monday, COVID-19 had infected 14.6 million people globally. It had killed over 609,198 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. New York, the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., has still had the most deaths of any state (32,506), followed by New Jersey (15,715) and Massachusetts (8,433).
On Feb 29, Surgeon General tweets his opposition to the public wearing masks. “Seriously people: STOP BUYING MASKS!” he tweeted. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #coronavirus, but if health-care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!” He changed his mind on April 4.
The public was, understandably, confused. N95 masks appear to be effective for health-care workers. This study says N95 medical-grade masks do help filter viruses that are larger than 0.1 micrometers (One micrometer, um, is one millionth of a meter.) The coronavirus is 0.125 um. They have “efficacy at filtering smaller particles and are designed to fit tightly to the face,” it said.
The markets appear torn between optimism on vaccine research and the economic impact of new surges, particularly California, Arizona, Florida and Texas. The Dow Jones Industrial Index DJIA, +0.03% closed higher Monday, as investors looked toward the prospect of further fiscal stimulus. The S&P 500 SPX, +0.84% and Nasdaq Composite COMP, +2.51% also ended higher.