Redfield said universal mask wearing over the next four to eight weeks could “bring the epidemic under control.”
He added that masking “is not a political issue — it’s a public health issue.” He said although the president and vice president can”easily justify” not wearing masks because they have access to frequent testing and know they are not infected, “we need them to set the example.”
His recommendation that Trump wear a mask in public ranks among the most direct comments from a federal health official on the topic. Trump was seen wearing a mask for the first time over the weekend, months after the CDC first endorsed the practice and after Trump had mocked or downplayed their use.
Later Tuesday, the CDC called for all Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “Broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19,” agency officials, including Redfield, wrote in an editorial in JAMA.
Redfield and other administration health officials have repeatedly warned about the potentially challenging flu season amid the coronavirus pandemic and called on Americans to get their flu shot this year.
Redfield’s comments Tuesday are among the most dire warnings he has issued so far about the growing coronavirus threat. There are more than 3.3. million confirmed cases in the U.S., and 136,000 have died.
Trump has downplayed his own health officials’ concerns about the fall and openly criticized the CDC over school reopening guidelines that he claimed were too strict. In April, he made Redfield clarify his warnings about flu season during a White House coronavirus task force press briefing, but Redfield said he stood by his remarks.