President Donald Trump wears a mask for the first time in public during a visit to a military hospital

U.S. President Donald Trump wears a mask for the first time in public during a visit to a Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, US on Saturday

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U.S. President Donald Trump wore a face mask during a visit to a Walter Reed military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on Saturday, the first time President Donald Trump has been seen in public with the type of facial covering recommended by health officials as a precaution against spreading or becoming infected by the novel coronavirus.

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President Trump flew by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in suburban Washington to meet wounded service members and health care providers caring for Covid-19 patients.

President Donald Trump wears a face mask

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As he left the White House, he told reporters: “When you’re in a hospital, especially … I think it’s expected to wear a mask.”

President Donald Trump was wearing a mask in Walter Reed’s hallway as he began his visit, however he was not wearing one when he stepped off the helicopter at the facility.

The president was a latecomer to wearing a mask during the pandemic, which has so far infected more than 3.2 million and killed at least 134,000 in the US.

Most prominent Republicans, including vice president Mike Pence, endorsed wearing masks as the coronavirus gained ground this summer.

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Mr Trump, however, has declined to wear a mask at news conferences, coronavirus task force updates, rallies and other public events.

People close to the president, speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press, claimed he feared a mask would make him look weak and was concerned it would shift focus to the public health crisis rather than the economic recovery.

While not wearing one himself, Mr Trump has sent mixed signals about masks, acknowledging that they would be appropriate if worn in an indoor setting where people were close together.

A spokesman for the Biden campaign cast the president’s action as too little, too late.

“Donald Trump spent months ignoring the advice of medical experts and politicizing wearing a mask, one of the most important things we can do to prevent the spread of the virus,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement. “Rather than taking responsibility and leading, he wasted four months that Americans have been making sacrifices by stoking divisions and actively discouraging people from taking a very basic step to protect each other.”

On its website, Walter Reed carries this recommendation, “Whenever you’re out in public, like at your local grocery store or pharmacy, where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of social distance, you should wear a cloth face covering.” The facility also notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.”

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