WATCH: Trump Says Masks Are Optional at White House Press Briefing

Trump, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx

Getty White House Coronavirus Task Force members Deborah Birx, Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci on May 15, 2020.

During the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on Friday, not every member of the team was wearing a protective mask. While President Donald Trump has never worn a mask during the White House press briefings and didn’t on Friday, for the first time Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx were standing behind the podium with protective masks on their faces.

Also present at the briefing and not wearing masks were Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins asked why some of the task force members were wearing masks and some were not. Trump said, “We’ve all been tested, I’ve been tested. We’ve all been tested. We’re quite a distance away and we’re outdoors, so I gave them the option that they could wear it or not. So, you can blame it on me. I gave them the option, ‘You can wear it or not.’”

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It’s been a few weeks since Fauci has attended the task force pressers, but three days earlier he appeared before the U.S. Senate by videoconference to discuss the process of opening the economy back up at a hearing entitled, “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and School.”

While numerous lawmakers joined via videoconference, marking the first Senate hearing held since March, Fauci told the Senate committee that schools should not expect a coronavirus vaccine by the time students are expected to return to class in the fall. He said even suggesting that a vaccine will be available at that time was “a bridge too far.”

Trump Said ‘Our Country Has to Get Back to Work’

During Friday’s White House press briefing, Trump said the nationwide shutdown has its own consequences. “When you are doing what we did with the shutdown, that causes death also. It causes massive depression. It causes drugs. It causes suicide. … No, our country has to get back to work again.”

During the Senate hearing earlier in the week, Fauci discussed his apprehension about certain states opening back up amid the global crisis. He said, “My concern that if some areas — cities, states or what have you — jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”

Fauci also dismissed the idea that COVID-19 will just go away on its own. “When you talk about ‘will this virus just disappear’ — and I’ve said publicly many times, that is just not gonna happen because it’s such a highly transmissible virus,” he said.

Fauci Entered ‘Modified Quarantine’ After Being Exposed To COVID-19 at The White House On May 11

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Getty Fauci

Fauci entered “modified quarantine” after being near a White House staffer who tested positive for COVID-19, according to CNN.

Fauci, 79, who many say is a comforting voice of reason during the pandemic, assured CNN’s Jake Tapper that he only had “low risk” contact, which means he was not in direct contact with the infected staffer.

Fauci is taking his own precautionary advice and is in a “modified quarantine” that started May 11 and is expected to continue for 14 days. Fauci said he will work from home and wear a mask while outside his home. Like most White House staffers who are regularly near the president, Fauci is being tested for coronavirus daily.

It was not revealed which White House staffer who has tested positive for COVID-19 was near Fauci. In the past week, Trump’s personal valet driver, Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant and Mike Pence’s secretary Katie Waldman have all tested positive for coronavirus.

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