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.
On his own use of masks and their effectiveness.
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.”
Early predictions that the virus would not be a threat.
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.”