President Donald Trump made a 180° shift in rhetoric and tone by encouraging Americans to wear masks if they cannot maintain social distance and warned that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better.
In his first press briefing in months focused on the outbreak, Trump urged young people to avoid going to crowded bars and maintained that the virus would disappear at some point.
Trump’s remarks were a change in strategy from his robust emphasis on reopening the U.S. economy after its long, virus-induced shutdown and represented his first recent acknowledgement of how bad the problem has become.
“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better – something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is,” Trump told reporters.
Nearly 145,000 people have died in the United States from the highly contagious respiratory illness COVID-19, the most of any country.
The Republican president, who downplayed the virus in its early stages and once referred to mask-wearing as politically correct, has been reluctant to wear a face covering himself.
He wore one for the first time in public during a recent visit to a military hospital but has otherwise eschewed putting one on in front of the press.
“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask. Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They’ll have an effect. And we need everything we can get,” he said.
Trump said he was getting used to masks and would wear one himself in groups or when on an elevator.
“I will use it, gladly,” he said. “Anything that potentially can help … is a good thing.”
United States overall has recorded 4,050,134 infections with 145,295 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.