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Donald Trump toured a factory making face masks on Tuesday but did not wear one, despite posing for photographs next to a box full of them.
The president wore safety goggles – which offer no protection against coronavirus – during the tour of the Arizona plant, which was rushed into service in less than five weeks because of a shortage of the protective equipment.
Trump gave a thumbs up for cameras at the factory where all the workers were wearing masks and where a sign read: “Attention: Face Mask Required in this Area. Thank You!”
A factory official said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and some other visiting dignitaries also did not wear masks, Reuters reports.
The federal government has encouraged Americans since early April to wear masks to avoid spreading the virus, even when not feeling any symptoms of Covid-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease it causes.
Trump has so far declined to wear a mask himself.
Earlier this month Vice President Mike Pence admitted that he had erred when he visited a clinic without wearing a face mask.
“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask,” Pence said during a Fox News virtual town hall.
At the time of the visit, Pence said he had chosen not to wear a mask because he’s frequently tested and knows he doesn’t have the virus. Pence also said he wanted to look researchers “in the eye” to thank them for their efforts, even though the masks don’t cover the eyes.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, the president announced the White House coronavirus task force will wind down as the country moves into a second phase that focuses on the aftermath of the outbreak, despite no clear signs that the country’s death toll – the highest in the world – is beginning to decline.
More than 70,000 people in the United States have died from Covid-19.
The New York Times has obtained research suggesting deaths could double to 3,000 a day, and the continuing spread of the disease could mean 200,000 new cases every day.
Trump acknowledged there might be a resurgence of the virus as states loosen restrictions on businesses and social life aimed at curbing its spread.
“It’ll be a flame and we’re going to put the flame out,” he said.
Trump said Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, doctors who assumed a high profile during weeks of nationally televised news briefings, would remain advisers after the group is dismantled.
The University of Washington’s influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on Monday doubled its previous forecast for Covid-19 deaths in the United States, however, saying it now predicts the number could reach about 135,000 by early August as restrictions are relaxed.
Birx said the team would “keep a close eye on the data”. She said the group was looking at outbreaks in Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, as points of concern.