President Donald Trump on Thursday denied former Vice President Joe Biden's call for a national mask mandate to fight the coronavirus, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate of politicizing the outbreak and shunning science in fighting the pandemic.
"It is a shameful situation for anyone to collect political points as we work to save lives and defeat the pandemic," Trump said during a press conference at the White House.
Biden, the suspected Democratic presidential candidate, said earlier Thursday that every American should wear a mask when they are out of the house for the next three months. He said every governor should prescribe their use.
Trump, who defied calls to wear masks for months, is now advocating the idea, although he prefers to allow governors to decide whether to require them at the state level.
"We asked Americans to wear masks. We said wear them when appropriate," Trump said. "Maybe they're great and maybe they're just good, maybe they're not that good. But honestly, what have you got to lose? You have nothing to lose."
Governors from Democratic and Republican-run states across the country have mandated the use of masks or reversed plans to reopen, as the cases have reoccurred primarily in the Midwest and Sun Belt.
Trump claimed, however, that Biden wanted to "shut down our economy and shut our schools and bring society to a standstill". Trump, who has repeatedly stated that lockdowns designed to prevent the virus from spreading further would do more harm than good, told reporters that Biden was "in favor of locking all Americans in their basements for months."
"We will defeat this virus, but not by hiding in our basements, it has to come from its basement. We will defeat this virus through sensible mitigation, protect the most vulnerable and unleash America's medical and scientific genius."
Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, his recently announced election for Vice President, have increased their criticism of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus in recent days. The couple held two briefings on Thursday, one on the coronavirus and the other on the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, and held a brief meeting with reporters.
"This virus has struck almost every country, but there's a reason it's hit America worse than any other advanced country. It's because Trump didn't take it seriously from the start," Harris said when he received her nomination accepted on Wednesday.