Mexico's president dismissive of wearing mask in pandemic

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Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gives his daily, morning news conference at the presidential palace, Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City, Monday, July 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday downplayed the importance of wearing face masks during the pandemic, calling his treasury secretary's assertion that using them would be a factor in reactivating the economy "disproportionate.”

López Obrador had never been seen publicly wearing a mask until he flew to Washington earlier this month to meet with President Donald Trump.

“If a mask was an option for the economy’s reactivation, I’d put one on immediately,” López Obrador said Wednesday. “But it’s not like that. I follow the recommendations of the doctors, of the scientists.”

The World Health Organization recommends the wearing of masks among other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. At age 66, López Obrador also falls into an at-risk group of people who should wear masks.

Mexico continued to report high transmission rates Wednesday, with 6,019 newly confirmed cases, for a cumulative total of 362,274 infections. The Health Department also reported 790 more deaths, bringing the total so far in the pandemic to 41,190, the fourth highest total behind the United Kingdom at 45,586.

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Arturo Herrera said in a virtual meeting with a national business council that countries that have taken a more ordered approach and precautions in reactivating their economies had been more successful than others that suffered new outbreaks and had to lock down again.

Herrera himself had been earlier infected with COVID-19 and recovered.

On Wednesday, Herrera was sitting behind López Obrador when he spoke and he asked the president to let him clarify his comments from the day before. He said he was using the mask as an “analogy” to explain to business owners that measures have to be taken to safely operate now. Among such measures are masks and he pulled out his own.