Trump Tests Positive for Coronavirus, 48 Hours After Mocking Biden for Wearing a Mask

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Source: The Intercept

fter six months of refusing to follow his own government’s public health advice to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic, and just two days after mocking his opponent Joe Biden for routinely doing so, President Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday, contracting the illness spread by respiratory droplets.

Fox News, the president’s de facto campaign arm, snapped into action by illustrating reports on the breaking news with one of the rare images of Trump wearing a mask — taken during a carefully staged photo-op at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in July.

While Trump’s aides had urged him to wear a mask in public that day to set an example for his followers, he was careful to undermine the guidance from health experts first, by suggesting that masks were appropriate only at times, like, “when you’re in a hospital.”

In the months since that photo-op, the president has been central to the politicization of mask-wearing — sowing resistance among his supporters by flouting the guidance himself and repeatedly making fun of others who follow it, particularly Biden, the Democratic nominee to replace him as president.

After Biden wore a mask to a Memorial Day service, Trump shared a childish tweet from the Fox News commentator Brit Hume suggesting that the former vice president looked silly.

At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, Trump treated Biden’s mask-wearing as a weakness to be ridiculed. “Did you ever see a man who likes a mask as much as him?” the president asked in his insult-comic mode.

He went on to suggest that his rival covered his face not to protect others or himself from the pandemic viral illness but “because, you know what, it gives him a feeling of security. If I were a psychiatrist, I’d say: ‘This guy’s got some big issues.’”

During the presidential debate on Tuesday, Trump again insinuated that there was something odd about the former vice president wearing a mask, a measure recommended by his coronavirus task force in April.

“I don’t wear a mask like him,” Trump said, gesturing toward Biden. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

Biden responded by noting that the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, just told Congress that nationwide mask-wearing could bring the pandemic under control in 6-12 weeks, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives. When Trump interrupted with the false claim that health experts have “also said the opposite,” about the effectiveness of masks, Biden replied dismissively, “No serious person’s said the opposite.”

Moments later, Trump also made fun of Biden for observing social distancing at small-scale campaign events during the pandemic, and denied that the crowded rallies he has held recently to make himself feel loved have threatened public health. “So far we have had no problem whatsoever,” the president claimed, relying on voters to have forgotten, or never heard, that his supporter Herman Cain tested positive for Covid-19 nine days after sitting unmasked at Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa in June, and died weeks later.

Biden then pointed out that Trump had said recently that his rallies were safe, for him, because he maintained social distance from his supporters. “He’s not worried about the people out there, breathing on one another, cheek by jowl,” Biden said. “We’ve had no negative effect,” Trump interjected. “No negative effect?” Biden replied. “Come on.”

Trump’s wife, Melania, and one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, also tested positive for the viral disease on Thursday. Both women have, at times, worn masks in public, but have also regularly been seen unmasked, including this week.

The first lady, like other members of Trump’s family, wore a mask as she took her seat in the debate hall at the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday, but later removed it.

At the conclusion of the debate, when she crossed the stage in front of Biden to join her husband, she was unmasked. By contrast, Jill Biden, the former vice president’s wife, wore a mask throughout the indoor event, and continued to do so as she stood with her husband on stage after it concluded.

Although masks were supposed to be required for everyone in the debate audience, Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who was in the hall reported on Twitter that the entire Trump entourage “came in with masks, took them off as soon as they sat down, refused to put them on when asked by Cleveland Clinic personnel.”

After news of Trump’s positive test was reported on Thursday, Ornstein observed that the debate had taken place with “Trump shouting only 8-10 feet from Biden for 90 mins. Oy.”

The president’s disdain for mask-wearing has been one of the few constants in his response to the pandemic that has now killed nearly 208,000 Americans. In early April, when Trump himself announced that his coronavirus task force recommended mask-wearing to slow the spread of the virus, he immediately made it clear that he had no intention of doing so. Asked why, Trump said that he was concerned about how he would look, and suggested that the pandemic would soon be over anyway. “This will pass, and hopefully it will pass very quickly,” he told reporters.

Trump’s apparent worry was that the public might be alarmed, or perhaps tipped off to the true scale of the crisis he was intentionally downplaying, by seeing him in a mask. His concern clearly influenced the behavior of his aides and senior administration officials. In April, Vice President Mike Pence refused to wear a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic, where it was mandatory.

Also in April, the White House reportedly stepped in to block plans by the United States Postal Service to deliver five face covering to every American household, 650 million masks in total.

A month later, when food industry executives in Iowa arrived for a roundtable discussion with Pence, a White House aide was spotted on camera asking them to remove the masks they were wearing before the vice president entered the room.

Incredibly, after Hicks was diagnosed on Thursday, Trump still went to a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “Trump was in close contact with dozens of other people, including campaign supporters, at a roundtable event,” The Washington Post reports. “The president did not wear a mask Thursday, including at the events at his golf course and on the plane, officials said. He was tested after he returned to the White House.”

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