Dr. Birx said there's 'clear scientific evidence' masks help, but she assumes Trump doesn't wear one because he's 'able to maintain' social distancing

tsonnemaker@businessinsider.com (Tyler Sonnemaker)
President Trump has continued to flout his own administration's guidance about wearing masks in public.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

  • Dr. Deborah Birx told FOX News' Chris Wallace on Sunday that there is "clear scientific evidence" that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Birx said she assumed Trump is "able to maintain that six feet distance" when asked by Wallace whether she wished Trump would wear a mask in public.
  • Trump has been criticized for repeatedly refusing to wear a mask during public appearances, including during visits to a Ford plant in Michigan and a Honeywell factory in Arizona earlier this month.
  • Birx said Americans should wear masks in public when they're not able to socially distance "out of respect for each other."
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Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus task force response coordinator, reiterated the importance of wearing masks on Sunday while also suggesting that President Trump hasn't done so because he's able to socially distance in most situations.

"There's clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happened and that others have done to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others," Birx said of measures to protect against spreading the novel coronavirus infection during an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace.

"Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance," she said. "It's really critically important." 

Wallace then asked Birx whether she wished Trump, "both from a safety point of view and from a public messaging point of view," would wear a mask in public.

Birx didn't answer Wallace's question directly, saying instead that Trump did wear a mask on one occasion while traveling last week, though she didn't specify which trip she was referencing.

"I'm assuming that in a majority of cases he's able to maintain that six feet distance," Birx said of the times where Trump hasn't worn a mask, though she acknowledged that she's "not with him every day and every moment" so she couldn't confirm whether that has been the case.

Trump has repeatedly come under fire for apparently violating his own administration's guidance around facial coverings, but the Associated Press reported earlier this month that Trump told aides he wouldn't wear one because he thought it would make him look ridiculous and hurt his reelection chances by sending the wrong message.

At a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, last week, Trump wore a mask while touring the factory but told reporters he removed it for the media briefing because he "didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," despite being told by the state's attorney general that he had a "legal responsibility" to wear one.

Trump also declined to wear a mask while visiting a Honeywell facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that makes N95 respirators for health-care workers. The president only wore goggles, despite signs that instructed mask-wearing.

Vice President Mike Pence was also criticized last month for not wearing a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic, against the clinic's rules for visitors. He later apologized and said he should have worn a mask.

Trump's mask aversion comes as a COVID-19 outbreak has swept the White House in recent weeks, with more than a dozen people who may work near Trump and Pence testing positive for the disease, including Pence's press secretary Katie Miller, eleven Secret Service agents, and one of Trump's personal valets.

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