“Will some people be affected badly? Yes, but we have to get our country open, and we have to get it opened soon.”
President Donald Trump visited an Arizona face mask factory Tuesday sporting goggles, no mouth covering, and an idea that Americans who put their health at risk to reopen the economy should be regarded as modern-day warriors.
Trump’s visit to a Honeywell facility in Phoenix was part of a push to demonstrate the need to ease stay-at-home orders even as the coronavirus remains a dire threat. The visit also comes days after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 15, and when there were 33 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 386 new confirmed cases for Tuesday.
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.
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.”
But like Trump, Senior White House staff, and Honeywell executives opted out of the mandatory face mask requirement while touring the facility with Guns N’ Roses “Let in Live Die ” playing in the background.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence also created a stir and backlash when photos showed him without a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic. He was surrounded by hospital officials and doctors all wearing masks, and said he didn’t know it was a requirement and that he is tested for the virus frequently. He wore a mask at an event a few days later, and also admitted he should have wore one during the visit.
After touring the facility, Trump held a press conference with Ducey, where he implied that the American people risking catching the new coronavirus in order to kickstart the economy was a sign of bravery.
“The people of our country are warriors, and I’m looking at it. I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes,” Trump said. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes, but we have to get our country open, and we have to get it opened soon.”
Nearly 100,000 Deaths
The President also acknowledged the loved ones of those who have died as a result of the coronavirus. To date, nearly 400 Arizonans and more than 70,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19.
“For those people that have lost somebody, for the people that have lost a loved one, even a close friend, nothing can ever happen that’s going to replace that,” Trump said. “But I think from an economic standpoint, purely an economic standpoint, I think next year’s potentially going to be one of the best years we’ve had.”
The president spent about three hours in Phoenix overall, 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.
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, and where Joe Biden is currently leading by 9 points, according to recent polling.
“I love Arizona. I have a lot of friends in Arizona. I’ve had great success over the years in Arizona,” Trump boasted as he left.
Infections on the Rise
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 U.S. 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.
“We’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening,” Trump said in Arizona. “And we’ll have a different group, probably, set up for that.”
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