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‘You don’t have to do it’: What Trump has said about the virus and masks.

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President Trump, who insisted when the coronavirus first emerged that it would not be a threat in the United States, also spent months playing down the effectiveness of masks, initially refused to be photographed with one on and this week at the presidential debate mocked his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., for consistently wearing one.

He has softened his tone on masks and has been seen wearing one with a presidential seal, and in the summer he began encouraging Americans to wear them. But even his endorsements of masks — which health officials say are a key way to slow the spread of the virus — have come with caveats that have muddled the message.

Here are some of his notable statements since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Trump Downplays Masks and Mocks Biden for Wearing Them

President Trump said he wore masks “when needed” but mocked Joseph R. Biden Jr. for regularly wearing masks in public.

“President Trump, you have begun to increasingly question the effectiveness of masks as a disease preventer, and in fact, recently you have cited the issue of waiters touching their masks and touching plates. Are you questioning —” “No, I think masks are OK. You have to understand, if you look, I mean, I have a mask right here. I put a mask on, you know, when I think I need it. Tonight as an example, everybody’s had a test, and you’ve had social distancing and all of the things that you have to — but I wear masks when needed. When needed, I wear masks.” “OK, let me ask —” “I don’t wear masks like him — every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from — he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.” “Masks make a big difference. His own head of the C.D.C. said if we just wore masks between now — if everybody wore masks in social distance between now and January, we’d probably save up to 100,000 lives. It matters.” “And they’ve also said the opposite.” “And no serious person said the opposite. No serious person.” “Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci said they didn’t.” “He did not say the opposite.” “He said very strongly, masks are not good. Then he changed his mind, he said masks are good. I’m OK with masks.”

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President Trump said he wore masks “when needed” but mocked Joseph R. Biden Jr. for regularly wearing masks in public.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

April 3, at the White House: “The C.D.C. is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure. So it’s voluntary. You don’t have to do it. They suggested for a period of time, but this is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

“I just don’t want to be doing — I don’t know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk. I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself. I just, I just don’t.”

May 21, touring a Ford plant: “I wore one” — a mask — “in the back area. I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”

July 19, to the Fox News host Chris Wallace: “I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask, everything disappears.”

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Is It Like the Flu? Is It a Major Threat? Trump’s Changing Coronavirus Message

After initially downplaying the potential severity of the coronavirus pandemic and sharing false and misleading information, President Trump has changed his position on key aspects of the crisis. Here are five examples.

“Have you been briefed by the C.D.C.?” “I have.” “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” “No, we’re not at all, and we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine. I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. We did one of the great jobs. You say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. And this is their new hoax. I’ve always viewed it as very serious. There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar, but some people said it wasn’t. We’re — what do you have, a very small number of people in the country right now with it? It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape. We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So you’re talking about 2.2 million deaths — 2.2 million people from this. And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 — it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100,000 and 200,000. We all together have done a very good job. The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me. But that’s a little bit like the flu. It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner. View this the same as the flu. This is not the flu. It’s vicious. It is so contagious. Flu has never been like that, and there is — flu is contagious, but nothing like we’ve ever seen here. Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what — the bottom line. Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. And in some cases, they’re in California where we have too many. And then in other cases, the distribution could be a little bit better for certain areas, but we’ve done a good job on testing.”

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After initially downplaying the potential severity of the coronavirus pandemic and sharing false and misleading information, President Trump has changed his position on key aspects of the crisis. Here are five examples.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Jan. 22, asked by a CNBC reporter whether there were “worries about a pandemic”: “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

Jan. 30, in Warren, Mich.: “We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.”

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