“As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously,” the First Lady wrote in a tweet. “#COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone — we can stop this together.”
The advice comes on the heels of updated guidance from multiple agencies, including the CDC, on the importance of wearing "non-medical cloth" protective face coverings in public — something that the government had initially brushed off as inessential as rampant price gouging and a national shortage of vital medical equipment, including face masks, had threatened to overwhelm healthcare providers that were already desperately in need of supplies.
Now, it seems Melania is making it her mission to get messaging out about face masks, specifically, with multiple calls to action to Americans on how to protect themselves as infections are skyrocketing across the country.
But even as Melania cautioned about the seriousness of heeding the CDC’s recommendations, and as recently published medical literature suggests that wearing a face mask can in fact help to decrease the rate of the virus’ transmission, her husband, President Donald Trump, said that he doesn’t plan on wearing a face mask anytime soon.
"I don't think I'm going to be doing it," the president said during a Friday press conference. "Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don't see it." Trump touted that he was glad his wife was taking action in the wake of the pandemic, but he himself would not be following those same guidelines.
“With the masks, it is going to be really a voluntary thing,” he added. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. But some people may want to do it, and that’s OK. It may be good. Probably will — they’re making a recommendation. It’s only a recommendation, it’s voluntary.”
The mixed messaging is just the latest example of Trump flouting the advice of his own federal agencies with regards to how to best protect against the coronavirus. During a press briefing on March 13, the president could be seen shaking hands, clapping speakers on the back and fumbling with the podium microphone that many others had just spoken into — mere days after it had been confirmed that he had recently been exposed to at least one person who had tested positive for the virus.
The disregard for the CDC’s recommendations also comes as Trump has regularly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus in the United States, even as its death toll has soared in recent weeks. After initially claiming that the virus was “...one person coming in from China,” and insisting that the White House had the outbreak “totally under control,” Trump eventually retooled his approach, insisting that the media was using the outbreak as a tool to attack his presidency and ignoring the successes of his administration.
Now, it seems the Melania — who has stayed relatively silent, with the exception of cancelling the White House's coveted Easter egg roll this year — is taking on the responsibility of effective messaging and following CDC guidelines, whether or not her husband is willing to do the same.