Donald Trump is pictured openly wearing a mask for the first time as he visits Walter Reed hospital

Donald Trump has donned a face mask to visit recuperating military personnel at the Walter Reed military hospital, in a rare nod to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health experts agree that face masks are useful at stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

The president has repeatedly shrugged off suggestions of wearing a mask, saying that it causes people to touch their face too much and so is not helpful.

Trump told Fox News on Thursday that he would wear a face mask during the trip. 

Donald Trump on Saturday wore a face mask to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

Donald Trump on Saturday wore a face mask to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

Donald Trump on Saturday wore a face mask to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland

‘I’m going to Walter Reed to see some of our great soldiers who have been injured,’ he told Sean Hannity. 

‘Badly injured. And also see some of our Covid workers, people who have such a great job. 

‘And I expect to be wearing a mask when I go into Walter Reed. You’re in a hospital so I think it’s a very appropriate thing.’

A health expert with Johns Hopkins University thinks that Americans will be wearing masks for ‘several years’.

More than 3.1 million people have now died of COVID in U.S.

More than 3.1 million people have now died of COVID in U.S.

More than 3.1 million people have now died of COVID in U.S.

Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said in an interview with CNET for the series Hacking the Apocalypse that he believes wearing facial coverings will be a part of the ‘new normal’.

‘I think that mask wearing and some degree of social distancing, we will be living with – hopefully living with happily – for several years,’ Toner said Monday.

Toner added: ‘It’s actually pretty straightforward. If we cover our faces, and both you and anyone you’re interacting with are wearing a mask, the risk of transmission goes way down.’ 

The Walter Reed website includes guidance that states visitors ‘are expected to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth upon entering and while moving about the facility… when not able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.’ 

Trump flew from the White House on Saturday afternoon, touching down at the medical facility at 5:24pm and leaving Marine One a few minutes later.

Marine One left the South Lawn of the White House at 5:14pm, en route to the Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland

Marine One left the South Lawn of the White House at 5:14pm, en route to the Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland

Marine One left the South Lawn of the White House at 5:14pm, en route to the Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland

The president was seen arriving at the medical facility at 5:24pm. President Trump was not wearing a mask on arrival

The president was seen arriving at the medical facility at 5:24pm. President Trump was not wearing a mask on arrival

The president was seen arriving at the medical facility at 5:24pm. President Trump was not wearing a mask on arrival

All of those present with the president were photographed wearing face masks

All of those present with the president were photographed wearing face masks

All of those present with the president were photographed wearing face masks

He spent about 40 minutes with patients and staff in a closed-door session. 

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, issued a statement saying: ‘President Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit brave combat wounded service members and their families as well as healthcare staff who have been caring for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.’

The president wrapped his visit inside the hospital at about 6:10pm, and Marine Force One flew him back to the White House at 6:25pm. 

Trump’s decision to model a mask in public view and tout it during a Fox News interview Thursday night came after a quiet lobbying campaign by some White House aides and political advisers, aides familiar with the discussions told CNN.

Some of his aides were reportedly concerned by the sight of so many maskless Trump supporters at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month and worried by the surge of coronavirus cases in the South.

Eight campaign staffers who attended the Tulsa rally tested positive for COVID-19. 

He boarded Marine One just short of an hour after arriving and, having taken his face mask off, flew back to the White House

He boarded Marine One just short of an hour after arriving and, having taken his face mask off, flew back to the White House

He boarded Marine One just short of an hour after arriving and, having taken his face mask off, flew back to the White House

Swathes of the southern and western United States are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases rocket in a disturbing trend

Swathes of the southern and western United States are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases rocket in a disturbing trend

Swathes of the southern and western United States are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases rocket in a disturbing trend

Pictured before leaving the White House on Saturday, the president was not wearing a mask

Pictured before leaving the White House on Saturday, the president was not wearing a mask

Pictured before leaving the White House on Saturday, the president was not wearing a mask

One presidential adviser described the effort as more than a week of ‘lots of negotiation’ and repeated ‘pleading’ by aides who urged the president to set an example for his supporters by wearing a mask on the visit.

Until this week, Trump had resisted that coaxing, in part because he is tested daily and views it as an unnecessary step and also because he has not wanted to give into media criticism and pressure.

‘I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,’ Trump said during a May visit to a Ford plant in Michigan, where he refused to wear a mask in view of the press in defiance of Ford rules.

He did don the mask when he thought people were not looking. 

Trump was caught on camera, away from the press, wearing a mask on May 21 in Michigan

Trump was caught on camera, away from the press, wearing a mask on May 21 in Michigan

Trump was caught on camera, away from the press, wearing a mask on May 21 in Michigan

He showed off the mask to press during the Michigan trip, but did not want photos wearing it

He showed off the mask to press during the Michigan trip, but did not want photos wearing it

He showed off the mask to press during the Michigan trip, but did not want photos wearing it

Trump’s visit to Walter Reed Saturday came just hours before he rallies his supporters in New Hampshire – a rally scheduled for Friday evening, but postponed due to poor weather.

Advisers hope his decision to wear a mask will encourage rally attendees to do the same.

The Trump campaign is now ‘strongly encouraging’ attendees to wear masks – a notable difference from Trump’s political events over the past several weeks, where mask-wearing was scarce and few steps were taken to encourage it.  

He has refused requests to make masks mandatory at his events.  

‘It’s fine to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable,’ he said.

A Trump political adviser told CNN the president is not in favor of forcing people to wear them.

‘That is the president. He does not want to say it,’ the adviser said. 

Every person attending the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville this August will be tested daily for the coronavirus as cases spike in Florida.

That will result in thousands of daily tests. The arena where Trump will formally accept his party’s nomination for a second term seats 15,000 people. Then there are vendors, security staff, and media who work in the surrounding area.

Typically a host city sees an influx of 40,000 to 50,000 people during a political convention when delegates, supporters, security, media, protesters and other visitors are factored in. It’s unclear how the coronavirus pandemic will affect those numbers.

Five senators have already said they are staying away, due to fears about the pandemic. 

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