U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday faced a fresh backlash for removing his mask when he returned to the White House.
Trump, however, urged Americans not to fear the COVID-19 disease that has killed over 209,000 people in the country and put him in hospital.
Trump arrived at the White House on Monday in a made-for-television spectacle in which he descended from his Marine One helicopter wearing a white surgical mask only to remove it as he posed, saluting and waving, on the mansion’s South Portico.
“Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it.
“I’m better, and maybe I’m immune, I don’t know,” Trump said in a video after his return from the Walter Reed Medical Centre military hospital outside Washington where he was treated for the disease.
Trump, who was treated by an army of doctors and received the experimental treatment, has repeatedly played down a disease that has killed over 1 million people worldwide and left his own country with the highest death toll in the world.
The Republican president, running for re-election against Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election, was admitted to hospital on Friday after being diagnosed with the disease.
Trump has repeatedly flouted social-distancing guidelines meant to curb the virus’ spread and ignored his own medical advisers.
He also mocked Biden at the last presidential debate for wearing a mask at events, even when he is far from others.
His decision to remove his mask after climbing the staircase to the White House South Portico, a perch that put him at some distance from others, and his insistence that Americans should not fear the disease horrified some physicians.
“I was aghast when he said COVID should not be feared,” said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville.