Moments after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he violated one major rule his public health officials have advised against—by shaking several people’s hands.
Trump, who spent the weekend with at least one person who has since tested positive for the novel coronavirus, also manhandled the microphone as he explained the need to declare a national emergency to allow the government to marshal more resources to cities and states struggling to contain the spread of the virus.
In his Friday speech, the self-proclaimed germaphobe pledged $50 billion in disaster relief aid to help states and municipalities fight the pandemic that has infected hundreds across the country.
“I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words,” Trump said as he was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, health officials Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, and several private health company CEOs. “No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever.”
As each health official and corporate executive took a turn at the microphone, they earned a handshake from the president.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s health and safety guidelines to avoid contracting the coronavirus, Americans should stop “stop handshaking” and “use other non-contact methods of greeting”—like the elbow bump that Bruce Greenstein, from the home healthcare provider LHC, used on Trump during Friday’s press conference.
“I like that. That’s good,” Trump responded after awkwardly returning the elbow bump.
On Tuesday, however, Vice President Mike Pence suggested both he and Trump would continue to shake people’s hands, violating health and safety guidelines. “Look, as the president has said, in our line of work, you shake hands when someone wants to shake your hand. And I expect the president will continue to do that. I'll continue to do it.”
There were also handshakes all around during a dinner on Saturday at Mar-a-Lago with Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose press secretary has since tested positive for COVID-19. While Bolsonaro denied reports Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from his U.S. trip, he has confirmed that he has taken a test for the virus.
Fabio Wajngarten, Bolsonaro’s communication secretary, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump initially said he was “not concerned” about potentially being exposed to the flu-like virus but he said on Friday, after being asked by a reporter if his refusal to get tested was “selfish,” said he will “most-likely” undergo an examination.
“I think I will do it anyway,” Trump said, while stressing he didn’t have any symptoms. He did not commit to sharing the results of his test. “We are working out a schedule,” he added.