Donald Trump addressed the nation on Friday, March 13, declaring a national emergency to deal with the growing coronavirus crisis. "To unleash the full power of the federal government … I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said on Friday, adding, "Two very big words."
Trump himself recently spoke at a conference that saw an attendee later test positive for COVID-19, though the White House has maintained that the President did not have any contact with the infected person, the Washington Post reports.
However, over the weekend, a photograph emerged of Trump, who has refused to get tested for the disease, shaking hands with Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. Schlapp has confirmed that he had been in direct contact with the infected man during the Conservative Political Action Conference last month.
Here's the Schlapp-Trump handshake at CPAC pic.twitter.com/lBwkhmSVAB— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 8, 2020
The photograph sparked increasing concern at the White House, which has only grown since Trump was in contact with a Brazilian official who has tested positive for COVID-19. Brazil has revealed that Bolsonaro’s press secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, tested positive for the disease and was present when Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met and dined with Trump at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. Bolsonaro tested negative for the disease and Trump said he was "not concerned" about his contact with Wajngarten.
Trump has consistently continued to shake hands with others despite the CDC's warnings against doing so. The organization has recommended social distancing, which includes staying away from large groups as much as possible and keeping space from others. Recommended greetings now include things like fist bumps and ankle taps. Trump did skip the handshake on Thursday when he met with Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House.
"I love the people of this country, and you can’t be a politician and not shake hands," Trump said last week at a Fox News town hall, via Vanity Fair. "And I’ll be shaking hands with people — and they want to say hello and hug you and kiss you — I don’t care."
The national emergency declaration comes amid criticism of the U.S. government's slow response to the pandemic, which now has over 1,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and over 125,000 worldwide. Trump said the move will "open up access" to up to $50 billion "for states and territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease."
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen / Staff, Getty