Donald Trump urged Americans to “wash your hands” but excluded a call for them to wear masks as he declared his administration has “put the flame out” from coronavirus even though it is spreading in some states at a record pace.
The president appeared in the White House briefing room for hastily arranged remarks about better-than-expected jobs numbers as states reopen their economies. At one point, he stressed the importance of “personal hygiene.” He paused and told Americans to “wash your hands.”
But he opted against making a clear statement from behind the famous blue lectern with the White House seal behind him to urge his fellow citizens to wear masks or face coverings when in public. The issue has become just the latest hot-button political matter in a country that has made turning just about anything into a hot-button political matter.
Many of Mr Trump’s core supporters call orders from local and state officials to wear masks in public or stay home an infringement on their freedoms or even “tyranny.” Mr Trump a day earlier, during an interview with Fox Business Network, claimed he is “all for masks.” He claimed to have sometimes worn a black mask, saying he thought he looked like the Lone Ranger, a classic movie character. (The Lone Ranger’s masks, however, covered just his upper face, around his eyes — not his nose and mouth.)
“I mean, people have seen me wearing one,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday. “If I’m in a group of people where we’re not, you know, 10 feet away, and – but, usually, I’m not in that position. And everyone’s tested. Because I’m the president, they get tested before they see me.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for a national order for everyone to wear a mask in public as coronavirus cases and hospitalisations soar anew, this time at a record pace. That includes the Sun Belt region, which largely is considered Trump country.
The president spent much of the spring pressing GOP governors to reopen their economies. Many did, and now states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, both Carolinas, are seeing the virus rip through their communities. The entire country recorded 52,789 new cases on Wednesday alone and over 800,000 new cases in June.
Despite that spread rate, Mr Trump told Fox he still believes the highly contagious respiratory disease eventually will “sort of just disappear.” It was not clear whether Mr Trump was referring to the development and deployment of a specialised vaccine – or some kind of miracle.
His top health officials, like Anthony Fauci, are busy warning that unless Americans revert to wearing masks and staying home, there may be no stopping the current uptick in cases. That did not stop Mr Trump, however, on Thursday from claiming that while the virus has “got a life … we’re putting out that life because it’s a bad life.”
The president, who left the briefing room before taking questions, touted the 4.8m jobs he said were “created” in June without mentioning the hundreds of thousands that were wiped out each month in the middle of the pandemic’s opening round of spread.
“Today’s announcement proves that our economy is roaring back,” Mr Trump said, eager to use a rebounding economy as the central plank of his re-election bid. As health experts warn of new job losses as states pause or take steps backwards in their re-opening efforts, the president subtly told Americans to ignore any bad economic news.
“Much of it, fake news,” he said of media coverage of the still-high unemployment picture just four months from Election Day. “And if the consumer didn’t get it, you wouldn’t have strong consumer confidence.” But top congressional Democrats were quick to rebut Mr Trump’s football-spiking statement.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer fired off a tweet that noted “Over 17M are still unemployed” and “Unemployment for black men rose to 16%.”. The New York Democrat added that “The gap between black & white unemployment grew to 5.3%” and “Permanent job losses rose by 588K.” He said those figures show Congress and the White House should join forces to craft and pass another coronavirus stimulus measure, an idea to which Senate Republicans have warmed recently.