Trump tours, touts mask factory but no mask for him
by The Associated Press
The U.S. president is determined to see an easing of stay-at-home orders, despite coronavirus remaining a dire threat
PHOENIX — Making himself Exhibit A for reopening the country, President Donald Trump visited an Arizona face mask factory, using the trip to demonstrate his determination to see an easing of stay-at-home orders even as the coronavirus remains a dire threat. Trump did not wear a mask despite guidelines saying they should be worn inside the factory at all times.
“The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. We have to open,” Trump declared May 5 as he left Washington on a trip that was more about the journey than the destination.
In Arizona, Trump acknowledged the human cost of returning to normalcy.
“I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” he said.
Trump had said he would don a face mask if the factory was “a mask environment,” but in the end he wore only safety goggles during a tour of the Honeywell facility. Nearly all factory workers and members of the press as well as some White House staff and Secret Service agents wore masks. Senior White House staff and Honeywell executives did not.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks when they can’t socially distance, such as in supermarkets, especially in places with high transmission rates. In the area where Trump spoke, a large video monitor listed safety guidelines, one of which said, “Please wear your mask at all times.”
Vice-President Mike Pence created a stir recently when photos showed him maskless in a visit to the Mayo Clinic surrounded by hospital officials and doctors all wearing masks. He said that he hadn’t known it was a requirement and that he is tested for the virus frequently. He wore a mask at an event a few days later.
Trump’s visit came as the White House said it hopes to wind down its coronavirus task force in the coming month as the president shifts his focus from battling an “invisible enemy” to rebooting the economy.
The president spent about three hours in Phoenix, touring the Honeywell factory and holding a roundtable on Native American issues. Aides said the trip would be worth the nearly eight hours of flight time as a symbolic show that the nation is taking steps back to normalcy. The trip was also expected to be a marker of Trump’s return to a regular travel schedule, as he hopes the nation, too, will begin to emerge from seven weeks of virus-imposed isolation.
After weeks cooped up in Washington, with little exposure to how the virus has been affecting Americans’ day-to-day lives, Trump got a first-hand view of one big impact. At the airport, Air Force One parked next to dozens of grounded commercial airliners with covered engines and taped-over probes and vents.
Trump’s first stop was a meeting with Native American leaders during which he distributed 1,000 Abbott quick virus tests.
“Native Americans have been hit hard by the terrible pandemic,” Trump said. “Hopefully, that will be helpful to you.”
Trump sees economic revival as a political imperative, as his allies have noted an erosion in support for the president in recent weeks. Republicans believe Trump’s path to a second term depends on the public’s perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.
That includes in Arizona, a key swing state, which Trump carried by less than 4 percentage points in 2016.
But even as many Americans have adhered to strict social distancing guidelines, the numbers of new infections and deaths from the virus have not decreased as quickly as hoped. Indeed, when the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the virus is taken out of the equation, numbers for the rest of the US are moving in the wrong direction. The infection rate is rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis found Tuesday.
Nonetheless, the White House has begun discussions about winding down its coronavirus task force, which has already been meeting less frequently, Pence said. Its members have become fixtures on television sets across the nation, with Americans hungry for information and marooned at home.
“I think we’re having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency by agency level,” Pence said at the White House. He said the group could wind down its work by early June.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force co-ordinator, said the federal government would still keep a close eye on the data if the task force disbands.
“It took us a while to build that capacity and we’ll make sure that we’re watching that at a federal level,” she said.