[NFA] President Donald Trump, in a shift in rhetoric on facial coverings, encouraged Americans on Tuesday to wear a mask if they cannot maintain social distance from people around them in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"Today, I want to provide an update on our response to the China virus..." President Donald Trump on Tuesday held his first coronavirus briefing in the James Brady press room in almost three months, a period of time in which roughly 80,000 Americans died from COVID-19 and former hotspots have become models for fighting the virus and vice versa.
"Some areas of our country are doing very well.
Others are doing less well.
It will probably, unfortunately get worse before it gets better.
Something I don't like saying..." In a stark contrast with his past comments, Trump encouraged Americans to wear a mask at the briefing, after months of avoiding being seen in front of the press wearing a mask himself until recently during a visit to a military hospital.
"I mean, I carry the mask.
When I have to go... when I went into Walter Reed Hospital the other day.
I have the mask right here.
And I will use it gladly.
No problem with it.
And I've said that, and I say, if you can, use the mask.
When you can, use the mask." One thing missing from Tuesday's coronavirus briefing was the coronavirus task force.
REPORTER: "Why are your doctors not here with you today?
Where is Dr. Fauci?
Dr. Birx?" TRUMP: "Well, Dr. Birx is right outside.
Yes, please." Officials have told Reuters that physicians on the coronavirus task force, particularly its coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, are frustrated that warnings about rising cases are being ignored, and dismayed that White House aides have publicly demeaned and disparaged the country's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, who was conspicuously absent from Tuesday's briefing.
Trump's regular coronavirus briefings ended soon after this now infamous moment on April 23.
"I see the disinfectant... and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" But with his poll numbers slipping, the former reality TV star decided to return to the podium.
"I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television.
There’s never been anything like it." Trump's advisors also supported reviving the briefings.
"His approval rating on the pandemic was higher when he was at the podium." Trump's Tuesday briefing came as the U.S. death toll topped 141,000.
Meanwhile, Congress is currently in the throes of negotiating another coronavirus relief bill to help deal with the pandemic and blunt the economic pain it's inflicted on the country and on Trump's bid for reelection.