President Donald Trump didn’t wear a face mask during most of his tour ofFord Motor Co.’s ventilator facility Thursday, defying the automaker’s policies and seeking to portray an image of normalcy even as American coronavirus deaths approach 100,000.
He told reporters he had put on a mask in the “back area” of the plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and didn’t want to give them the “pleasure” of seeing him with it.
“I was given a choice,” he said. “And I had one on in an area where they preferred it, so I put it on. And it was very nice. Look, very nice. But they said they’re not necessary.” He added that he had also worn goggles.
Trump held up a dark-colored mask bearing the presidential seal. He said he had been tested for the coronavirus earlier in the day and didn’t need to cover his face.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, and experts on the president’s coronavirus task force have said masks are useful in preventing the spread of the virus from those who are unaware they have it.
Many companies continuing operations during the pandemic have instituted requirements that workers wear protective gear, including masks, while on the job. Ford has released a 64-pagereturn-to-work playbook that states: “Face masks are required to be worn by everyone, in all facilities, at all times.”
Although Ford shared details of its safety policies with the White House, it ultimately deferred to the president and his staff.
The company said Ford Chairman Bill Ford “encouraged President Trump to wear a mask when he arrived. He wore a mask during a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years. The president later removed the mask for the remainder of the visit.”
The United Auto Workers union criticized Trump for not wearing a mask in public view.
“It is vitally important that our members continue to follow the protocols that have been put in place to safeguard them, their families and their communities,” the union said in astatement noting that 25 of its members had died of the virus. “These protocols are literally a matter of life and death.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said in anopen letter Thursday that the president had a “social and moral responsibility” to take precautions to prevent further spread of the virus. Nessel subsequently told CNN that if Trump “fails to wear a mask, he’s going to be asked not to return to any unclosed facilities inside our state.”
“We are just asking that President Trump comply with the law of our state, just as we would make the same request of anyone else in those plants,” Nessel said.
Asked about his plans before he left the White House on Thursday, Trump was noncommittal, but said “I want to get our country back to normal.”
After a visit late last month to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Vice President Mike Pence was criticized for disregarding clinic rules requiring face masks. He has been spotted wearing a mask at some subsequent events, including a trip to a Florida nursing home on Wednesday.