Masks — and President Trump’s refusal to wear one — were a central topic of the Senate health committee hearing on Tuesday, as Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the committee chairman, called on the president to set a better example by occasionally covering his face.
At the outset of the hearing, Mr. Alexander, a Republican, lamented that wearing a mask had “become part of the political debate,” and said he had “suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask, even though in most cases” Mr. Trump does not need to do so.
“The president has plenty of admirers,” Mr. Alexander said. “They would follow his lead, it would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for this political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump to continue.”
The senator’s remarks, an echo of comments he made over the weekend, were a striking example of a Republican criticizing the president by name. As they have in the past, health experts emphasized that masks were essential to containing the virus, though they avoided direct mention of Mr. Trump.
“We recommend masks for everyone on the outside, anyone who comes into contact in a crowded area,” Dr. Fauci said at the hearing. “You should avoid crowds where possible. And when you’re outside and do not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times.”
Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, also noted the mixed messaging.
“While our panelists tell us the importance of wearing masks, the president of the United States is retweeting articles — he retweets people that are criticizing how folks look when they wear masks,” Mr. Murphy said.
“So we have these two parallel messaging operations, and I just think it’s worth stipulating that everything we’re hearing today is based on evidence,” the senator continued. “But the representatives today have social media followings of about five million people. The president of the United States has a following of around 82 million. You can understand why folks are confused out there.”