Trump finally wears mask as US posts record spike in coronavirus cases
US posts another daily record for infections; death rate soars
BETHESDA, MARYLAND: President Donald Trump finally yielded to pressure and wore a face mask in public for the first time on Saturday as the US posted another daily record for coronavirus cases, while Disney World reopened in a state hit hard by the pandemic.
White House experts leading the national fight against the contagion have recommended wearing face masks in public to prevent transmission of the illness.
But Mr Trump had repeatedly avoided doing so, even after staff members at the White House tested positive for the virus and as more aides have taken to wearing them.
Hours after the World Health Organisation urged countries to step up control measures to rein in the disease, Mr Trump donned a dark mask bearing the presidential seal as he visited wounded military veterans at the Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington.
"I have never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place," he said. "I think when you are in a hospital, especially in that particular setting when you are talking to a lot of soldiers, people that in some cases just got off the operating table, it is a great thing to wear a mask."
A spokesman for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Mr Trump had spent months ignoring the advice of experts and politicising wearing a mask.
"Rather than taking responsibility and leading, he wasted four months that Americans have been making sacrifices by stoking divisions and actively discouraging people from taking a very basic step to protect each other," said spokesman Andrew Bates.
Mr Trump is trailing Mr Biden in the polls ahead of a November election as most Americans are unhappy with how he has handled the crisis.
The country posted yet another daily record of confirmed cases on Saturday night, with 66,528 new infections, while the death toll rose by almost 800 to nearly 135,000.
In Florida, where nearly one in six of those new infections were recorded, the Walt Disney World theme park partially reopened after four months of shutdown.
Hundreds of people queued to enter the park in Orlando, some sporting Mickey ears but all wearing face masks, with social distancing and other hygiene precautions also in place. - AFP, REUTERS