[Newsphopick=Gyubin Lee] President Donald Trump's refusal to set an example by wearing a face covering, despite growing evidence that it may be one of the most effective ways to slow America's increasingly disastrous coronavirus pandemic, was always a political statement.
Now, as the clinical and electoral damage builds from a resurgent virus that is close to racing out of control after another record day for new cases on Wednesday, the President may be edging, very slowly, toward a rethink.
By going barefaced when everyone around him masked up, Trump created a false impression that the worst was behind us, that normality was about to come roaring back. He cemented his bond with grassroots supporters who see mask-wearing mandates as a sign of servitude to government and elites and an impediment to their rights.
Yet Trump's position has left him increasingly isolated even from the Republican leaders who have facilitated his unchained presidency, as public health officials and local and state leaders of all political stripes plead with Americans to cover up in public so the country can heal itself.
The mask movement now seems unstoppable, partly due to warnings like the one this week by the government's top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said new US coronavirus infections could soon hit 100,000 a day.
Fauci said the aggressive state openings that Trump championed have backfired as people without masks celebrated in bars and crowds. "It's a violation of the principles of what we're trying to do, and that is the social distancing, the wearing of masks," Fauci told NPR on Wednesday.