‘Mugged by Reality,’ Trump Finds Denial Won’t Stop the Pandemic

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In the months since, he reposted a Twitter message that mocked Mr. Biden for wearing a mask, disparaged a reporter who insisted on wearing a mask to a news conference “because you want to be politically correct,” insisted that masks were a “double-edged sword” and agreed that some people might only be wearing masks to make a political statement against him.

Over the past two weeks, he wore one in public where he would be photographed for the first time and told Americans that it was an act of patriotism to wear one. “If you can, use the mask,” he said in a televised briefing. “When you can, use the mask.”

Even so, he has not worn one himself in public again, not even when visiting his Washington hotel for a political event or hosting Little League players on the South Lawn to mark the reopening of Major League Baseball.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, insisted on Friday that Mr. Trump had not adjusted his approach to the virus, saying he “has been consistent” on masks and always supported them. “He hasn’t changed,” she said. “The reason he wants to bring back these briefings is to get information out there.”

Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, acknowledged that the spikes in infections followed states’ reopening, but blamed the governors. “Some of these states blew through our gated criteria, blew through our phases and they opened up some of the industries a little too quickly like bars,” she told reporters this week. Reminded that it was the president who had encouraged them to reopen quickly, she pointed to the one time he chided one state, Georgia, for going too far.

Mr. Trump and his team continued to insist that he had handled the virus decisively, always citing his decision early on to limit travel from China and the increases in the supply of ventilators and testing capacity. The president likewise continued to press schools to reopen fully and in person in the fall, even though his own son’s private school will not, but even there he gave some ground this week by acknowledging that some schools in areas hard hit by the virus might need to delay doing so.

But in much of the country, school leaders, like many governors and mayors, are paying less attention now to a president whose predictions have fallen flat and are paying more attention to the numbers on the charts. If a political convention in Jacksonville is not safe in the coronavirus age, many schools are coming to the conclusion that it may not be safe for them either, at least not on a full-scale basis.



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