President Donald Trump is preparing to hit the road as he looks forward to what he has billed as a reopening of the country following a period of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, even as the virus remains an ongoing threat.
"I've been at the White House now for many months, and I'd like to get out," Trump said Wednesday, making no secret of the fact that he is itching to get out of the confines of the White House after hardly leaving the White House grounds, aside from a couple of occasions, over an eight-week period.
The president left the White House for the first time in over a month on Friday evening, traveling by helicopter to the Camp David presidential retreat located in Maryland. Official presidential travel is set to resume in earnest on Tuesday, with Trump traveling to Phoenix, where he will tour a Honeywell plant that has hired 500 people to manufacture N95 masks. The president has said he will also travel to Ohio soon, but the White House has yet to release any further information on that visit.
A senior administration official said the president intends to do further travel in the weeks ahead to highlight stories of American resilience in the face of the pandemic and also highlight stories of Americans who have benefited from government assistance, such as the Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, during the crisis.
While the president's movements have been strictly limited in recent weeks, Vice President Mike Pence has already made a number of day trips highlighting the work of those on the front lines through the crisis, with visits to supply distribution centers and manufacturing facilities producing medical gear.
The vice president drew backlash earlier this week for not wearing a face mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in violation of the clinic's mask-wearing policy, which he defended by noting that he is regularly tested for the virus and does not have it. But following the criticism, the vice president donned a mask later in the week, for the first time before cameras, during a tour of a ventilator production facility.
While Trump has in the past said he doesn't see himself ever wearing a mask, he said Thursday he would consider wearing one during his upcoming travel depending on the circumstance and "the climate."
"I would have to look at the climate. I'd have no problem wearing a mask. I don't know, I'm supposed to make a speech. I just don't know -- Can I speak in a mask? You're going to have to tell me if that's politically correct," Trump said when asked about the possibility of wearing a mask during his trip to Arizona next week. "Depending on the conditions, I would have no problem wearing a mask."
While Trump has yet to wear a mask himself, first lady Melania Trump was photographed wearing a mask for a social media post in which she encouraged people to consider wearing face coverings for trips to public spaces, like grocery stores and pharmacies.
Beyond upcoming official trips, Trump has also expressed hope that he can soon restart his massive campaign rallies -- packing tens of thousands of people into an event site, without the constraints of social distancing measures.
"I can't imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full, every six seats are empty for every one that you have full. That wouldn't look too good," Trump said. "I hope that we are going to be able to do some good old-fashioned 25,000-person rallies where everyone is going wild because they love our country."
What to know about coronavirus:
- How it started and how to protect yourself: Coronavirus explained
- What to do if you have symptoms: Coronavirus symptoms
- Tracking the spread in the U.S. and worldwide: Coronavirus map