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Donald Trump opted not to wear a protective face mask in front of the cameras as he toured a Ford plant in Michigan that insists all visitors must wear them.
The US president was surrounded by company executives who were wearing masks after travelling on Thursday to the crucial US election battleground state.
Trump has consistently disregarded guidance from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention urging people to wear masks in close company to try to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Holding a navy blue mask stamped with the presidential seal, Trump told reporters: “I had one on before. I wore one in the back area, but I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it. It was very nice. It looked very nice.”
He added that wearing a mask was “not necessary” during the tour because “everyone has been tested”.
The president said earlier this week he is taking a drug not proven for the coronavirus after two White House staffers tested positive in recent weeks.
When asked if Trump was told it was acceptable not to wear a mask in the plant, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said: “It’s up to him.”
“Honestly I think I look better in a mask,” Trump added.
Trump has urged states to loosen coronavirus-related restrictions so the battered US economy can recover even as public health experts warn that premature relaxation of restrictions could lead to a second wave of infections.
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, seen as a potential vice presidential running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, is facing a backlash from some critics against her stay-at-home orders in a state hit hard by the last recession. Trump has encouraged anti-lockdown protests against Whitmer held in Michigan’s capital.
Trump won in Michigan in the 2016 election, the first Republican to do since 1988. Trump’s handful of trips out of Washington since the pandemic went into full force have focused on election battleground states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania.