Face masks: Former White House chief of staff says they’re necessary as Trump continues to dismiss them

“If we are careful about social distancing and putting on masks and so forth, we should be able to go back to work sooner rather than later,” he said in an interview on CNBC.

Still, there does not appear to be a growing push at the White House to encourage mask wearing, even though the administration’s own public health experts have stressed its importance.

After Biden appeared at a veterans memorial in Delaware wearing a black face mask and aviator sunglasses to lay a wreath alongside his also-masked wife, Trump retweeted the conservative commentator Brit Hume, who posted a photo of Biden and wrote: “This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended Americans wear masks in instances where it is impossible to socially distance, and they are now required in many cities when visiting stores or other open businesses.

As states begin the process of reopening, masks have appeared on lists of regulations and guidelines for how to safely restart economies and avoid a second outbreak.

That has caused anger among some Americans, who have refused to wear masks and claim the requirement infringes upon their civil liberties. Videos of angry customers refusing to wear masks have gone viral online and the issue has expanded into a debate over the responsibilities of individuals in combating a nationwide crisis.

A clear political divide

Popular opinion is tilted in favor of mask wearing. Sixty-four percent of Americans say everyone should be required to wear masks in public, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.

But the same poll showed mask wearing in America has become another political fault line. While 87% of Democrats said masks should be required for everyone in public, 40% of Republicans said the same. And when asked whether Trump himself should wear a face mask when he’s in public, 90% of Democrats said he should compared to 38% of Republicans.

The clear political divide hasn’t gone unnoticed by the President or his political advisers, nor has the broader cultural debate online that has pitted mask-opposing Trump supporters with those who wear one to further spread.

Trump has so far refused to wear a mask in public, even in places where they are required. Trump did not wear a mask during a trip to a mask production facility in Arizona or a medical equipment and distribution facility in Pennsylvania earlier this month. During a trip to Michigan to visit a Ford plant last week, Trump brought a mask but refused to wear it in front of cameras.

“I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump said at the time.

During multiple Memorial Day ceremonies Monday, neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence wore a mask — though the first lady, Melania Trump, was spotted putting on a white mask after boarding Marine One on the White House South Lawn.

White House advisers favor masks

Ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, the White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said there is “clear scientific evidence” that masks work — adding that she assumes Trump is able to keep six feet of distance “in a majority of cases” when pressed on whether he should wear one.

“What we have said to people is there is clear scientific evidence now, by all the droplet experiments that happened, and that others have done, to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others,” Birx said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked what she would tell people who say they have a right not to wear a mask in public.

“Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance,” she said.

Others close to the administration have also said wearing masks in public could help businesses return to normal.

Mulvaney, who departed his role as acting chief of staff earlier this year, urged the administration to get Americans back to work — with face masks — in light of new information on surface spread from the CDC.

“The fact that it’s difficult to get this disease from touching stuff, the CDC put out last week, should sort of reset how we look at this,” he said during that appearance on CNBC Tuesday when asked how he’d be handling the pandemic if he were still in his old role.

“Much easier to control the projectile coming out of your mouth, the particulate matter, than the stuff that you touch, which you do every single day,” he went on. “So if you combine really effective use of masks, which we already should be doing, which is washing our hands and so forth, really, you get a chance to go back now as opposed to waiting around for a vaccine or treatment.”

Mulvaney also said he would be “comfortable” in the middle seat of an airplane with the proper PPE.


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