Trump says he gave officials ‘option’ to wear masks at Rose Garden event
President Trump said Friday that he gave officials the option to wear masks during a Rose Garden ceremony focused on coronavirus vaccine development.
Trump, who did not wear a face covering, was flanked by administration officials including Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, both members of the White House coronavirus task force who were wearing masks.
Other officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Defense Secretary Mark Esper did not wear face coverings.
Asked why some officials wore masks while others didn’t, Trump said everyone had been tested for the coronavirus and they were all socially distanced around the podium, indicating there was no need.
“We have all been tested. I’ve been tested,” Trump said. “We’re quite a distance away and we’re outdoors. I gave them the option. They could wear it or not. So, you can blame it on me.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April recommended the use of masks to prevent the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19. However, the president has been resistant to wear a face covering, something that has garnered increased attention over the past several weeks.
Trump is tested daily for the coronavirus, and the White House has argued there is no need for an official who does not have the virus to wear a mask.
“He’s very protected, he tests negative daily and that’s his personal choice,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said later Friday afternoon when asked about Trump’s decision not to wear a mask. McEnany noted that the CDC guidance is voluntary.
Trump has not donned a mask in public appearances at the White House or during his two major trips outside Washington, D.C., amid the pandemic. On Thursday, Trump was seen without a mask while touring a medical equipment distributor in Pennsylvania while other officials with him wore masks.
Trump told reporters following his trip to a Honeywell mask plant in Arizona last week that he was informed by company officials that he didn’t need to wear one at the factory, even though signs on display instructed employees to wear them. Trump said he briefly put on a mask when he was out of view of reporters.
Meanwhile, the White House this week instructed aides in the West Wing to wear face coverings except for when they are socially distancing at their desks, after two officials tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
Asked Friday why Trump wouldn’t wear the mask to set an example for the American public, McEnany insisted that the president set an example by instructing staffers to wear face coverings.
Other administration officials have worn masks in public, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently traveled to Israel, and Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, who toured a Maryland food distributor wearing a mask earlier Friday.
—Updated at 3:27 p.m.
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