In a first, Trump dons masks in visit to a military medical facility

President Donald Trump, who has avoided wearing a mask in public even as the coronavirus pandemic spread, donned one on Saturday at a military medical facility outside Washington where he was to meet with wounded soldiers and front-line health-care workers.

The visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center marked Trump's first public appearance with a face covering since the virus began sweeping across the United States earlier this year.

Trump had previously refused to wear a mask in public or ask other Americans to do so, saying it was a personal choice, although he had said he would if he was in a crowd and could not maintain distance from others.

"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, I think it's a great thing to wear a mask," Trump told reporters at the White House just before his visit to Walter Reed.

At the medical facility, Trump walked by media gathered for a carefully staged photo opportunity wearing a navy blue mask emblazoned with a presidential seal embossed in gold. He said only "thank you" as he passed.

Top public health officials have urged the use of masks to slow the spread of the virus, which by Friday had claimed nearly 134,000 American lives. Critics say Trump's refusal to wear one showed a lack of leadership.

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Donald Trump in controversial photo op
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks through a colonnade of police in riot gear while walking to the White House from St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks with US Attorney General William Barr (L), US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Secret Service in riot gear stand guard while US President Donald Trump visits St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Secret Service in riot gear stand guard while US President Donald Trump visits St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he gestures, alongside US Attorney General William Barr (L), White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien (2nd-L) and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. President Donald Trump (C) waves to journalists as he returns to the White House after posing for photographs in front of St. John's Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump encouraged U.S. governors to be more aggressive against violent protesters following several nights of nationwide violence in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. “You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," he was reported saying during a call from the basement White House Situation Room. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: Members of the Secret Service counter assault team return to the White House after U.S. President Donald Trump posed for photographs in front of St. John's Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump encouraged U.S. governors to be more aggressive against violent protesters following several nights of nationwide violence in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. “You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," he was reported saying during a call from the basement White House Situation Room. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House after spending time in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020 as police officers stand guard amid protests. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a bible as he walks through Lafayette Park after spending time in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
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Even as other officials in his administration called for the use of masks and social distancing, Trump, who faces re-election in November, pressured states to reopen closed economies.

But since many states relaxed coronavirus restrictions, the virus has found a new toehold. New U.S. cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, rose by more than 69,000 on Friday, a third straight daily record.

As of Friday, the number of confirmed U.S. infections topped 3 million, according to a Reuters tally.

A spokesman for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Trump had spent months ignoring the advice of medical experts and politicizing 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 the spokesman, Andrew Bates.

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