President Donald Trump on Monday sent a campaign email, typically used for soliciting donations, to make a different request of his supporters: consider wearing a mask.
“We are all in this together, and while I know there has been some confusion surrounding the usage of face masks, I think it’s something we should all try to do when we are not able to be socially distanced from others,” the email, sent by the Trump campaign and signed by the President, read.
The rare move comes after Trump avoided wearing a mask in public for months untilhe tweeted a photo of himself wearing one in a stark messaging pivot in July — though footage later surfaced of Trump not wearing a mask later that day.
The shift to encouraging mask-wearing was primarily motivated by floundering poll numbers, a source familiar with the President’s thinking told CNN last month, and came nearly three months after he publicly announced new mask recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and two months since he mocked his election rival Joe Biden for wearing one.
In Monday’s email, Trump highlighted mask wearing as a potential means of accelerating a return to normal life, lamenting the effects of the coronavirus using a stigmatizing and inaccurate term for the virus.
“I don’t love wearing them either. Masks may be good, they may be just okay, or they may be great,” the email continued. “They can possibly help us get back to our American way of life that so many of us rightfully cherished before we were so terribly impacted by the China Virus.”
Trump added, “My feeling is, we have nothing to lose, and possibly everything to gain, including the next chapter to our country, and to keep things open whether it be schools or businesses.”
Despite Trump’s change of message, masks have loomed as a sticking point for some of his legislative allies.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week, had refused to wear a mask — a fact highlighted by Rep. Raúl Grijalva when the Arizona Democrat tested positive for the virus after attending a hearing with Gohmert. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday she would require all House members and aides to wear masks on the floor following Gohmert’s diagnosis.
Masks are a focal point of many health experts’ recommendations to suppress the spread of the virus, and some states and businesses have required them. The CDC says that everyone “should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.”
And the effects can be dramatic. Experts say wearing a face mask or other face covering could reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by as much as 50%, and the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation announced in June that if 95% of Americans wore face masks in public, it could prevent 33,000 deaths by October 1.