President Trump on Thursday reiterated his call for all U.S. citizens to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 144,000 Americans and infected more than 4 million.
But minutes later, he was seen posing for pictures and tossing a baseball with Little Leaguers on the South Lawn of the White House. No one was wearing a mask.
“We ask all Americans to exercise vigilance, practice social distancing, wear a mask, do whatever is necessary so we get rid of this horrible situation,” Trump said at a press briefing late Thursday afternoon.
For months the president resisted wearing a mask, and he only recently endorsed the recommendation by public health officials for Americans to cover their mouths and noses outside their homes, while declining to impose a federal mandate. “We have to be vigilant,” he said. “We have to be careful. And we also have to set an example. I think setting the example is very important.”
On Thursday evening, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading adviser on Trump’s coronavirus task force, threw out the first pitch of the Major League Baseball season. He was wearing a mask.
Trump backers have held demonstrations without masks to show their support for the president. As recently as last month, he said he believed some Americans wore masks as a sign they disapproved of him.
The president also said the White House would ask Congress to provide more than $100 billion to schools in its next coronavirus relief bill to “support mitigation measures,” including smaller class sizes, more teachers and, “crucially, mask wearing.”
Trump, who was accompanied by former New York Yankees Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, walked out to the front lawn of the White House to greet about 15 youth baseball players and play catch to mark Major League Baseball’s opening day.
“The key is to get back to normal, because nobody wants to see this,” he said. “It’s a tremendous thing, psychologically, for our country.”
The White House has said Trump is regularly tested for COVID-19, and normally requires reporters and others to be tested before they come into close contact with the president. It’s unclear if the Little Leaguers had been tested.
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