Coronavirus Spikes In Battleground States Force Trump To Act Like He Cares

Donald Trump grabbed headlines Saturday for merely wearing a mask during a visit to a military hospital, the first time the president has donned the precaution that health officials have recommended for months. Trump flew by helicopter to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he met with wounded service members and medical professionals specializing in COVID-19 treatment. “I love masks in the appropriate locations,” Trump told reporters at the White House before taking off, according to NPR, adding that he thinks “it’s a great thing to wear a mask” in a hospital “where you’re talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables.”

“I’ve never been against masks, but I do believe they have a time and a place,” Trump claimed, despite the fact that he has mocked mask-wearers—including presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and a White House correspondent—throughout the coronavirus outbreak, which was officially declared a global pandemic in mid-March. “I just don’t want to wear one myself,” Trump said in early April, even as his administration recommended wearing one. His decision not to publicly wear one in May, he said, was so as not to give “the press the pleasure of seeing it.” He has refused to wear a face covering at public events like campaign rallies and news conferences. Those close to him told the Associated Press that Trump worried wearing a mask would portray weakness and, in drawing attention to the pandemic, distract from the message of economic recovery he has continued to tout.

Though Trump is finally taking this precaution now, he is months too late—and is likely motivated because the virus is ravaging states vital to his reelection chances and Biden is beating him in the polls. Trump’s visible shift comes amid surges in COVID-19 infections and deaths across the country, especially in Arizona, Texas, and Florida, which have reported record-breaking virus tallies over the past few weeks. The United States saw more than 68,000 new cases on Friday, breaking the single-day record for the seventh time in 11 days, the New York Times reported. On Sunday, Florida reported 15,300 new coronavirus cases over a 24-hour period, “a record for one day anywhere in the U.S.,” according to the Miami Herald.

The staggering numbers have prompted even Republican governors who resisted mask guidance to come around, the Washington Post notes. With cases and hospitalizations spiking in Arizona last month, Governor Doug Ducey allowed local governments to mandate face coverings, a request they had reportedly been making for several weeks. Greg Abbott recently mandated masks for most of Texas—a dramatic reversal for the GOP governor who in April blocked local officials from imposing a penalty or fine on anyone not wearing a mask.

“He was concerned about mandating masking because of the claims of some of his constituency that there was some kind of liberty issue at stake,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, said of Abbott to the Post. “I never understood that argument, because I don’t think anybody has a liberty interest in contributing affirmatively to the spread of disease.”

On Twitter, Trump allies gushed about the president wearing a mask, effectively applauding him for doing the right thing—the bare minimum—amid the coronavirus spikes. Campaign advisers Boris Epshteyn and Jason Miller seemed to see Trump’s move as a political victory, captioning a photo of a masked Trump with “Joe Biden is finished” and “Goodnight, @JoeBiden.”

Citing their tweets, the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein wrote that “[Trump’s] campaign appears to believe he has won the election by putting on a mask, which raises the question of why they resisted this tactically brilliant political move until after 133k deaths.” CNN’s Jake Tapper responded to a photo of Trump wearing a mask by tweeting, “Some day someone will do a study on how many lives might have been saved if this happened in February or March.”

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