Republican senators are urging President Donald Trump to wear a face mask to set an example as coronavirus cases rise in red states and the administration shuts down federal testing sites.
Infections rose across the United States by at least 39,818 on Thursday, marking the worst day since the virus first hit the U.S. Red states in the South – like Texas, Florida and Arizona – have been some of the worst hit.
Throughout the pandemic, Trump has resisted wearing a face mask, despite CDC recommendations. He was captured wearing one during a Ford factory tour in Michigan in May but that image was captured back stage. Trump had removed the covering when he went out to face the media.
Senators are suggesting it’s time the president set an example.
‘I’d prefer he do it. He’s not going to. You know he’s not going to do it,’ said Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio. ‘I’m not excusing it obviously. I prefer him wear one because people follow an example.’
Rubio said masks should be worn out of ‘respect for other people’ so no one is inadvertently infected. But, he acknowledged, ‘the president obviously lives in a bubble. It’s a very different situation.’
Republican senators are urging President Donald Trump to wear a face mask to set an example as coronavirus cases rise across the country
President Donald Trump has resisted wearing a face mask in public although he was caught wearing one backstage during a Ford factory tour in Michigan in May
Rubio’s fellow Republican senator from Florida, Rick Scott, also encouraged mask wearing.
‘We haven’t beat it. We’ve got to wear masks. We’ve got to social distance. You got to get more information out,’ he said, adding: ‘I hope everyone takes it seriously because we haven’t beat this.’
Florida reported 5,004 new infections in a single day Thursday – a day after its one-day record of 5,508 reported on Wednesday.
The senators’ concern came as a slew of new polls showed Trump behind his Democratic rival Joe Biden in several battleground states that are key in November’s election. And Republican lawmakers fear if the president loses, he may take the party’s majority in the Senate down with him.
Even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of President Trump’s, said masks should be worn – although he admitted the president was unlikely to do so.
‘Well you know, he’s got his own view of whether or not he should wear a mask,’ Graham said of Trump, ‘but my advice to people is if you’re around strangers, try to stay six feet, wear a mask.’
Nearly 9 in 10 Americans – 89 per cent – said they wore a face mask or a face covering when they left their homes in the past week, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, up 20 points since the last time the question was asked in mid-April.
Trump did not wear a face mask during the taping of his Fox News townhall on Thursday in Wisconsin, despite the network requiring attendees to do do.
He also did not wear one at his first campaign rally in four months in Tulsa on Saturday – where several members of his advance team tested positive for coronavirus.
And he didn’t wear one Tuesday in Arizona when he spoke to nearly 3,000 students. Most attendees at the Tulsa and Phoenix events did not wear masks either.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in all three states Trump has visited in the past week.
Additionally, the Senate will soon begin debate on another big coronavirus relief measure, a legislative package that could come before November’s election.
President Donald Trump did not wear a face mask at his campaign rally in Tulsa (left) on Saturday; nor did he wear one when he spoke to students in Phoenix on Tuesday (right)
President Trump did not wear a face mask during the taping of his Fox News townhall on Thursday in Wisconsin, despite the network requiring attendees to do do
A Trump supporter going to Thursday’s town hall in Green Bay checks in before going inside
Republican lawmakers also encouraged more testing – a move that came as the Trump administration plans to end federal funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites.
Seven of those centers are in Texas and the state’s Republican senators – John Cornyn and Ted Cruz – expressed outrage at the move.
‘I think it’s clear to all of us, that with the uptick of cases, now is not a time to retreat from our vigilance in testing,’ Cornyn said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
Texas recorded yet another bleak milestone Thursday, as it beat its own record for new daily infections for the third day running, reaching almost 6,000 cases.
The state reported 5,996 new cases in a single day, up from 5,551 and 5,489 in the previous two days.
Texas – along with New Mexico, Arizona and Florida – all pledged to pause their reopenings as the virus rates in those states spiked.
Graham also advocated for more testing. His home state of South Carolina is seeing a rise in coronavirus infections.
‘I just think we need to do more testing, not less,’ he said.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services countered the testing sites would not be shut down – they would simply be funded by the states instead of the federal government.
The Trump administration plans to end federal funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites
President Trump was in Wisconsin on Thursday to tout his economic record; his focus has been on the economy instead of the coronavirus in recent weeks
And Republican Senator Mike Braun of Indiana shrugged off the administration’s decision, arguing states and private companies would fill any testing gap.
‘Testing is going to plow forward because that’s a function of companies wanting to do it and state and local governments. So that’s not going to make a difference anyway. People are going to test to the extent they want to, and there are plenty of them available now,’ he said.
Trump, at his rally in Tulsa on Saturday, said he told his people to ‘slow the testing down, please,’ in order for the U.S. to have lower COVID-19 case numbers.
The White House tried to walk back his remarks after criticism poured in at Trump’s suggestion he ordered less testing for the virus.
On Sunday, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN the president was simply being ‘tongue in cheek,’ and on Monday White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said he was speaking ‘in jest.’
But on Tuesday, Trump told reporters, ‘I don’t kid,’ and continued to push his claim that there are spikes in states – including Texas – because the country is performing more tests.
The president, however, has turned his focus from the coronavirus to the economy, pushing for the country to reopen and focusing his day trips out of the White House on economic matters.
On Thursday he visited the Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin to brag about a new $5.5 billion contract it was awarded to build ships for the Navy.
‘It’s gonna be built right here in the American heartland and it’s going to be built by you. And it’s going to go on for a long time because it’s up to 20 ships and might be extended,’ he said.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force has not held a public briefing since April. It is scheduled to hold one on Friday at the Department of Health and Human Services.