Donald Trump traveled to a medical equipment distribution facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, to tout a plan to replenish and upgrade the vital federal stockpile.
According to the pool report, “the president and his entourage were led around by Owens and Minor employees, who explained their distribution system and the products they handle.
“Trump and [White House chief of staff] Mark Meadows did not wear masks. Everyone else did.”
Last week in Arizona, which like Pennsylvania will be a battleground state in November, Trump did not wear a mask while he toured a facility which made masks.
Then, to widespread comment, the James Bond theme song Live and Let Die played in the background.
The Pennsylvania event had the trappings of a campaign rally. For his remarks, Trump approached the podium to the sound of God Bless the USA.
He promised to “create a stockpile [of medical equipment] that is not only the best-resourced in the world but also evolved to meet all of the new threats that can happen, things that you’re not even thinking about right now”.
He also announced that on the flight to Pennsylvania, he signed a new Defense Production Act authority to invest in US-based pharmaceutical producers.
“All that social distancing,” he said, noting that the facility’s employees were spaced 6ft apart. “Look at you people. That’s pretty impressive. But we like it the old way a little bit better, don’t we? And we’ll be back, we’ll be back to that soon. I really believe it.”
The president also assailed the media – “a disaster” – and Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Referring to an occasion on which Biden garbled the name of the H1N1 virus, Trump asked the crowd: “N1H1, who said that?”
“Sleepy Joe!” he said, answering himself to a ripple of nervous laughter.
Trump argued that the Obama administration mishandled the response to H1N1, though the scale of that 2009 outbreak was nothing compared to the death toll and social disruption from Covid-19 this year.
According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, more than 1.4m cases have been confirmed in the US and nearly 85,000 people have died. The outbreak appears to be receding in New York, by far the worst-hit state, but new hotspots are being reported, some in traditionally Republican states.
Critics charge that the situation in the US has been made worse by Trump’s mismanagement.