Apparently untroubled by charges of hypocrisy, US President Donald Trump has played golf for the first time since declaring the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency more than two months ago.
His return to the course on Saturday was the latest sign that he wants the country back to pre-outbreak times, even as the US death toll from the virus nears 100,000, twice what he once predicted it would be.
It has also given further ammunition to critics who have contrasted his current actions with the 2014 blast he directed at Barack Obama’s regular golf outings when he was president.
“Can you believe that with all of the problems and difficulties facing the US, President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter,” Trump tweeted during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
CNN photojournalist @abdallahcnn got a shot of President Trump golfing today. He says the president is moving around the course in a golf cart alone but is golfing with three partners. None of the men are wearing masks. pic.twitter.com/WXYS6zDPNd
— Jason Hoffman (@JasonHoffman93) May 23, 2020
Trump also planned Memorial Day visits to Arlington National Cemetery and the Fort McHenry national monument in Baltimore, followed by a trip to Florida’s coast on Wednesday to watch to US astronauts blast into orbit.
The golf outing came a day after Trump said houses of worship are “essential” and he demanded that governors allow them to reopen during the holiday weekend.
It also followed guidance from Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator, that it was OK for people to be outdoors this weekend as long as they took appropriate safety precautions.
Trump pulled away from the White House on a sunny morning wearing a white polo shirt, white cap and dark slacks. Photographs that appeared later on Twitter showed him swinging a golf club and driving alone in a cart on the course at his private Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
The White House had no comment on the president’s activities at the club, but said he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had discussed the pandemic’s effect on the global economy on Saturday.
The golf trip was the president’s first visit to one of his money-making properties since March 8, when he visited his private golf club in West Palm Beach during a weekend at his Florida home.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11, and Trump followed with the national emergency declaration two days later.
On Friday, Birx said it’s OK for Americans to play golf, tennis or other sports this weekend “if you stay 6 feet (1.8 metres) apart.”
She also said the Washington metropolitan area had the highest positivity rate in the country. The capital city’s coronavirus death rate is higher than all but four states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The US leads the world with a reported 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 96,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.