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President Donald Trump is mocking his Democratic rival for letting his mask hang off his ear when he delivers speeches. Speaking to rally-goers in Pennsylvania, Trump says of Joe Biden, “Did you ever see a man who likes a mask as much as him?” (Sept. 3)

AP Domestic

WASHINGTON – Making his first remarks on the latest grim milestone in the nation’s battle with coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Tuesday lamented the loss of 200,000 Americans who have died from the disease, describing it as “a shame.”  

“It’s a horrible thing,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House as he left for a rally in Pennsylvania. “It should have never, ever happened.”

“It’s a shame,” he added. 

The president has touted his response to the virus in the past, blamed China for allowing it to become a pandemic and promised a vaccine will be widely available for Americans by April. He does not mention that, in March, he said keeping deaths below 200,000 people would indicate that his administration had “done a very good job.”   

“And so, if we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 – that’s a horrible number – maybe even less, but to 100,000; so we have between 100- and 200,000 – we all, together, have done a very good job,” Trump said at the White House on March 30.

Addressing earlier projections, Trump said Tuesday that “the original numbers were around 200,000 if you do it right, if you did a good job and if the public worked along. And if you didn’t do it right you’d be at two million, two-and-a-half million.”  

At another point during his brief back and forth with reporters, Trump asked a questioner to remove her mask. When she asked why he hadn’t spoken about the death toll, Trump demurred: “Go ahead. Anybody else?”

Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania was sandwiched between two seismic political events: Republicans largely coalescing around a plan to move quickly on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee to fill the seat left vacant by the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the first presidential debate with Democrat Joe Biden, set for Tuesday, Sept. 29. 

The president has sought to project an image of returning to normal with his rallies, but they have drawn criticism from local public health officials.  

More: Republicans likely have support for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee 

More: Trump says he welcomes second impeachment over Supreme Court seat

Trump has ramped up his campaign presence since formally accepting the GOP nomination, attending 10 rallies since late August and a handful of other rally-like events. Most of those events have been held outdoors, though he has faced criticism for holding a few indoor events during a recent swing through the Southwest.

His supporters at those events rarely practice social distancing or wear masks. 

Trump has been at odds in recent days with members of his administration on the vaccine timeline. Trump has said every American will have access to a vaccine by April, but health officials note no vaccine has been approved yet and CDC officials have predicted a vaccine won’t be widely available until the summer or fall of next year. 

“The fact that we have come nowhere near that number is a testament to this president taking immediate action,” Kayleigh McEnany said earlier in the day, referring to the estimates that as many as 2 million could die from the virus.” 

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