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Trump Embraces Face Masks But Rejects National Mandate

President Donald Trump wears a mask as he walks down the hallway during his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, July 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Donald Trump says he is in favor of Americans wearing face masks to help curb the surging coronavirus pandemic, but says he will not impose a national mandate.

“I’m a believer in masks,” Trump said in an interview at the White House first aired on the “Fox News Sunday” TV show. “I think masks are good.”

But Trump, who wore a mask in public for the first time only a week ago, told newsman Chris Wallace in the interview conducted Friday: “I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask, everything disappears.”

Even as several of the 50 U.S. state governors and big-city mayors have imposed mask-wearing mandates in the face of fast-rising coronavirus caseloads, Trump said he believes mask-wearing should be voluntary.

“I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in” making it a legal requirement, Trump said in his first Sunday talk show interview in more than a year.

He noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams both advised against wearing a mask in the first days of the virus’ spread in the U.S. Both have long since changed their minds and repeatedly called for face coverings.

“Hey, Dr. Fauci said don’t wear a mask,” Trump said. “Our surgeon general – terrific guy – said don’t wear a mask. Everybody who is saying don’t wear a mask – all of sudden everybody’s got to wear a mask, and as you know masks cause problems, too.”

More than 70,000 new coronavirus cases have been recorded daily in recent days in the U.S. In all, more than 140,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, with more than 3.7 million coronavirus infections. Both figures are far higher than in any other country.

Health experts predict that tens of thousands more Americans will die from the pandemic in the coming months.

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