Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

Coronavirus: No mask required at Donald Trump's Independence Day party

A small, invited crowd of mostly unmasked guests were roped off from the president

Officials across the country pleaded with Americans to curb their enthusiasm for large July 4 Independence Day crowds, even as President Donald Trump enticed the masses with a “special evening” of tribute and fireworks staged with new US coronavirus infections on the rise.

An unmasked Trump and First Lady Melania walked down a socially distanced grass reservation in the White House grounds as the small, invited crowd of mostly unmasked guests were roped off from the president.

Trump said a “therapeutic or vaccine solution” for the coronavirus will be ready before the end of the year, without offering any details.

“We are now doing unbelievably well” on remedies, and “deep testing” on vaccines is under way, Trump said in the White House speech.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, our strategy has moved along well,” Trump said of the US response. “We’ve learnt how to put out the flame,” he said.

Trump packed his Independence Day speech with grievances and digs at political enemies, but also nods to heroes.

In a reference to Black Lives Matter race equality protests and a debate about national heroes who owned slaves, he said the United States would “never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history”.

“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left: the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters,” he said.

In the afternoon, people had wandered around the National Mall and took shade under the scattered trees while, not far away, music wafted from a party on the White House South Lawn.

Crowds on the Mall were thinner than last year and many who showed up wore masks.

Donald Trump and Melania Trump walks down a socially distanced central reservation at the White House. AFP
Donald Trump and Melania Trump walks down a socially distanced central reservation at the White House. AFP

At the nearby World War 2 Memorial, the National Park Service handed out packets of five white cloth masks to all who wanted them, but people were not required to wear them.

Nurse, Zippy Watt from Riverside, California, came to see the air show and fireworks with her husband and their two daughters, one of whom lived in Washington. They wore matching American flag face masks even when seated together on a park bench.

“We chose to wear a mask to protect ourselves and others,” Watt said.

Trump’s guests were doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and military members as well as officials from the administration, said Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary.

In many parts of the country, authorities discouraged mass gatherings for the holiday after days that have seen Covid-19 cases grow at a rate not experienced even during the deadliest phase of the pandemic in the spring.

In New York, once the epicentre of the US outbreak, people were urged to avoid crowds.

In Philadelphia, mask- and glove-wearing descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence participated in a virtual tapping of the famed Liberty.

Yet Trump continued to crave big crowds when it came to his events.

He opened the holiday weekend by travelling to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a fireworks display Friday night near the mountain carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Even as he pushed ahead with celebrations, the shadow of coronavirus loomed closer to him.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fund-raiser for the president and girlfriend of his eldest child, Donald Trump junior, tested positive for the virus, Trump’s campaign said late Friday.

His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said in a statement that the U.S. “never lived up” to its founding principle that “all men are created equal,” but today “we have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.”

Updated: July 5, 2020 02:04 PM

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