Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he was “all for masks” and would wear one if in close quarters with other people to prevent the spread of coronavirus in an apparent softening of position.
The US president, who has been reluctant to wear a face mask when seen in public, said in a Fox Business interview that he thought masks were “good”.
However Mr Trump continued to decline to issue an order making the wearing of face masks in public compulsory, saying: “I don’t know if you need mandatory.”
The comments come amid coronavirus case numbers surging across America, with the daily record for new cases being broken four times in the last week.
Some 48,000 new Covid-19 cases were registered on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tally, which was 80 per cent higher than just a fortnight ago.
The surge is being driven in the South and West of America, with Arizona, California, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas all seeing sharp rises in new case numbers.
Mr Trump’s position on face masks is complicated, with the president’s own administration issuing guidance in April advising all Amercians to wear a mask when in public.
However the president has declined to wear one during almost all of his public events during the pandemic and shared a photograph appearing to mock his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden for doing so.
“I’m all for masks, I think masks are good,” Mr Trump said in the interview. “If I were in a tight situation with people I would absolutely” wear a mask, he added.
Mr Trump also joked he looked like the Lone Ranger, the fictional Texas cowboy, when he had a mask on recently, saying: “I sort of liked the way I looked.”
The president also said in the interview that he supports another round of payments to Americans to help deal with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemis.
“I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats, but it’s got to be done properly,” Mr Trump said as discussion about the best steps forward played out in the US Congress.
“I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it. I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion.”