President Donald Trump’s messaging on COVID-19 has been consistent over the last week. The important thing, the president has emphasized, is getting people back to work. The economy can’t stay closed down forever. The messaging hasn’t been that health is unimportant, per se, but that the economy has to get back to work.
However, while he’s been promoting this viewpoint, the president has also been quick to dismiss health experts’ calls for increased testing and contact tracing. Trump has noted that he doesn’t feel testing and tracing at a federal level are important to reopen the economy. Instead, he’s noted that governors should be in charge of the testing efforts in their own states.
However, medical professionals are largely in agreement that widespread testing and tracing is pivotal to reopen the economy. In lieu of a vaccine or robust treatment that can fight COVID, testing, and contact tracing is the best way to stop the virus.
Meanwhile, while Trump is saying one thing he is doing another. The president has reportedly become furious that his personal valet was diagnosed with COVID last week. Those close to the president claim that he’s livid his valet wasn’t being required to wear a mask.
However, the president has not once been seen in public wearing a mask. Advisors near him have stated he feels wearing a mask in public will undermine his COVID-19 messaging. Trump may feel as though a mask would make him look weak, or scared.
However, many critics of the president say that a mask would make him look (uncharacteristically) responsible.
Additionally, Stephanie Miller, advisor to the vice president, and some eleven Secret Service members have also been diagnosed with COVID-19. This has led the White House to ramp up efforts in both testing and contact tracing known cases.
This, ironically, has led to Trump saying one thing to the public and another to his aides. While he wants people to get back to work to get the economy moving, he’s living in the White House. Where testing and contact tracing are, arguably, at their tightest. Yet, he’s inviting people without those same protections to continue life as normal.
According to reporting from the New York Times, Trump’s own advisors are aware of this perception. However, it is unclear how to reconcile the competing interests at play. On the one hand, Trump is deathly afraid of coming down with the virus. On the other, his reelection hopes hinge on the economy roaring again by November.
In the end, the president can’t both have his cake and eat it, too.