U.S. President Donald Trump paid a visit to wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday and wore a mask after months of refusing to be seen doing so in public.
"I'll probably have a mask if you must know. I think when you're in a hospital especially in that particular setting, where you are talking to a lot of soldiers, people that in some cases just got off the operating table. I think it's a great thing to wear a mask. I've never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place," Trump told reporters ahead of his visit.
The President's decision to wear a mask during his trip to the medical center comes after months of declining to publicly wear one — against the recommendations of his own administration's public health experts.Trump insisted wearing a mask would make him appear weak and give off the impression that he wasn't controlling the pandemic.
He has previously said that he would not wear a mask and mocked Democratic rival Joe Biden for doing so.
Joe Biden's campaign responded to Trump's decision to wear a mask with the former vice president's spokesman, Andrew Bates, saying the President "wasted" four months discouraging people from wearing masks while Biden "has led by example from the start."
CNN previously reported that Trump's agreement to don a mask in public was the result of heavy "pleading" by aides, who urged the President to set an example for his supporters by wearing a mask on the visit.
One presidential adviser described the effort as more than a week of "lots of negotiation" and repeated "pleading" by aides.
As Trump's poll numbers sink, some of his advisers have intensified their arguments to him about wearing a mask, suggesting it would be an easy step that is well-received by the vast majority of Americans. In recent days, aides began conceiving an event where it might make sense for Trump to appear masked, hoping to avoid the appearance he is simply doing it for show. A hospital, where nearly everyone is required to wear a mask, fit the bill.
At Walter Reed, all visitors "are expected to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth upon entering and while moving about the facility," according to the hospital's website.
First lady Melania Trump posted a video of herself wearing a mask during a visit to The Mary Elizabeth House, the first time the public has seen footage of the first lady in a face covering in several weeks. The post comes a day after President Donald Trump wore a mask for the first time publicly during a visit to wounded veterans at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland.