Around 1,500 of the president’s supporters gathered on the South Lawn of the White House Thursday evening to hear Donald Trump formally accept the nomination for president at the Republican National Convention (RNC).
Before and during the speech, one thing was quite noticeable: In spite of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging Americans to wear masks when they can’t keep six feet apart from other individuals, most participants who gathered to hear the speech did not wear facial coverings.
Standard White House protocols regarding screening visitors for COVID-19 also seemed to go out the window during the speech, as those taking part told The Washington Post that they weren’t even asked basic questions about whether they had symptoms of the virus, let alone tested when they entered the White House grounds. Officials from the White House said it would not be logistically possible to test everyone ahead of the president’s speech.
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Concern over the potential spread of the disease did not seem to be a concern of campaign officials and White House officials organizing the controversial event on Thursday, as CNN’s Jim Acosta noted after Trump’s speech had ended that evening.
“I talked to a senior White House official earlier this evening about all of these people, hundreds of people, sitting side-by-side in the audience, not wearing masks,” Acosta reported, “and the senior White House official brushed off these concerns about the lack of social distancing at the president’s speech tonight, saying, ‘Everybody is going to catch this thing eventually.'”
CNN also noted another jarring fact: More Americans have died since the start of the RNC to its conclusion than had died in the attacks of September 11, 2001. From the start of the convention on Monday to 8:30 pm Eastern Time, just a couple of hours before Trump’s speech, at least 3,688 Americans died due to complications from COVID-19.
From the start of the pandemic to 8 am on Friday, more than 5.8 million cases of coronavirus have been identified in the U.S., with more than 180,000 deaths so far.
When it came to the content of Trump’s speech, the president gave a highly misleading and inaccurate account of how he’s managed the pandemic so far, including claims that his administration has “developed a wide array of effective treatments, including a powerful antibody treatment known as convalescent plasma that will save thousands of lives.”
No successful treatment for COVID-19 has actually been developed, and a number of health experts have disputed the Trump administration’s overstated claims on convalescent plasma.
Americans mostly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic since it began earlier this year. According to an aggregate of polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight, as of August 27, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Trump has handled the pandemic, while just 38.9 percent (less than 2 out of 5 Americans) approve of how he’s managed the crisis.