As the number of cases of coronavirus continues to climb, President Trump is sticking with his campaign strategy of downplaying the horrific reality that is the worsening pandemic with the hope that voters will follow his lead of whistling past the COVID-19 graveyard.
According to a Friday report in Politico, the president’s disregard for human life extends to the people who are working to get him elected. At Trump’s campaign headquarters in Virginia, staff “play down” and “joke” about the pandemic’s threat and are told that “it’s acceptable to remove” masks while at the office.
“You get made fun of if you wear a mask. There’s social pressure not to do it,” one source told Politico.
The report goes on to describe an atmosphere at the headquarters where staff members are pressured into not informing other staff “whether they were exposed to the virus” to avoid “negative headlines” like those that came out of his Tulsa rally.
On June 10, Vice President Mike Pence shared and then deleted a photo taken at campaign headquarters that showed a room packed with staffers while no one, including the vice president, wore a face mask or practiced social distancing.
Spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told Politico that not only does the campaign go “above and beyond” to protect the staffers, they even pay for it.
“The campaign takes the health and safety of our staff very seriously,” Murtaugh said, “We have enacted numerous safety measures above and beyond what most private employers consider, at the expense of the campaign, including weekly deep cleaning, daily temperature checks in the office for staff and guests, widely available masks and PPE, and testing of staff both before events and before returning to the office.”
Of course, having masks and PPE available does nothing if staff are pressured not to use them. And temperature checks often fail to catch asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic COVID-19 carriers.
Trump’s uncaring obstinance on using and endorsing protective measures is hurting him politically, as it should. According to a new poll from ABCNews/Ipsos released on Friday, 67 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the pandemic, while only 33 percent approve. Trump’s overall disapproval number of 57 percent is at its highest since the pandemic began.
The president has also made a point to distance himself from one of his most experienced health advisors by stiff-arming Dr. Anthony Fauci so much that Fauci admitted in an interview with the Financial Times that he has not briefed Trump on COVID-19 “for at least two months” — a chilling thought considering Fauci is the country’s foremost expert on infectious disease.
Fauci also told the Times that he’s “trying to figure out where the president got that number” when asked about Trump’s recent untrue assertions about 99 percent of coronavirus positive cases being “totally harmless.”
Trump claims he will indeed wear a mask on Saturday when he is scheduled to visit wounded veterans. But according to CNN, the president’s staff had to“practically beg” him to do so.
“It’s fine to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable. I expect to be wearing a mask when I go into Walter Reed. You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing. I have no problem with a mask,” Trump told Fox News this week.