President Donald Trump on Friday vowed to shield America’s senior citizens from the coronavirus and directed them to stay home amid the pandemic, addressing a crowd of elderly supporters at an indoor event where mask-wearing was sporadic and not mandated.
“Stay. If you feel good, if you feel safe — because it’s going to be gone — stay where you are,” Trump said in his speech in Fort Myers, Fla. “Don’t leave. Don’t say, ‘Oh gee, I have to get out. The president said, let’s get out.’ Stay where you are.”
Trump insisted he was “working as hard as I can” so older Americans “can kiss and hug your children and grandchildren very soon,” telling his audience: “That’s something I missed also. I will be honest with you.”
The president added that he, too, perhaps would have remained indoors to avoid possible infection, were it not for the office he held. “I might do that if I weren’t in this position. Maybe I’d be doing it, myself,” he said.
The more cautious remarks from the president contradicted the tone Trump has struck at campaign rallies and other official events, where he regularly downplays the threat of the pandemic and urges Americans to restart their daily lives with little regard for the highly contagious disease.
The venue for Trump’s speech Friday, focused on “Protecting America’s Seniors,” offered a similarly glaring contrast — with the president’s team enforcing few mitigation measures to ensure the population most vulnerable to the virus did not contract it.
Although some audience members appeared below retirement age, subtle differences from the president’s high-energy campaign rallies confirmed the crowd was mostly older.
The 500 or so attendees, a good portion of whom did not wear masks, were kept away from the blistering Florida heat in an air-conditioned ballroom. Their seats were separated somewhat, but many chairs were closer together than the six feet required under most social-distancing guidelines.
And as the crowd awaited Trump’s arrival, his classic rock playlist emanated from the speakers at much a lower volume than the high decibel levels MAGA rally-goers are accustomed to.
Gabby Orr contributed to this report.
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