Trump, Pence flout government coronavirus guidance to stop shaking hands

They say it's unavoidable since they're politicians.

March 11, 2020, 12:25 PM

“Stop shaking hands” is the very first bullet point on the Trump administration’s list of recommended precautions workplaces and schools can implement to help blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

Recommendations for keeping the workplace safe
Recommendations for keeping the workplace safe
ABC Photo Illustration

But even as the administration pushes the public to follow the common-sense recommendations – available at coronavirus.gov – President Donald Trump is openly flouting the guidance and has been seen at multiple events in recent days shaking hands.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump shakes hands with retired four-star Army general Jack Keane after presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom to  during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, March 10, 2020.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with retired four-star Army general Jack Keane after presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom to during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, March 10, 2020.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Vice President Pence defended the president’s continued habit of hand-shaking and signaled that both he and the president will continue to disregard the very guidance they have been espousing going forward.

“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,” Pence said when questioned with the president’s public contradiction of the administration’s guidance in a briefing Tuesday evening.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence bumps elbows with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, during a news conference, March 5, 2020, at Camp Murray in Washington state.
Vice President Mike Pence bumps elbows with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, during a news conference, March 5, 2020, at Camp Murray in Washington state.
Ted S. Warren/AP

Even as he has been seen adopting an elbow-bump greeting in public appearances, he told reporters that he has also been shaking hands.

“I've been shaking hands, too,” said Pence, who just minutes prior advocated for nationwide adoption of the bullet-point recommendations that were displayed on a large poster board beside him.

“This should be universal for the country. Everyone should be doing that, whether you live in a zone that has community spread or not,” Pence said.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence addresses reporters during his daily Coronavirus Task Force news briefing at the White House, March 10, 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence addresses reporters during his daily Coronavirus Task Force news briefing at the White House, March 10, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The guidelines also recommend that workplaces “consider adjusting or postponing large meetings or gatherings.”

On Tuesday, it was clear that coronavirus concerns had reached the 2020 presidential campaign trail, with both the Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders campaign cancelling rallies planned for that evening.

The Trump campaign and the president, for their part, have said they plan to continue holding events amid the outbreak, even as there is a conspicuous absence of rallies on the president’s schedule this week.

The campaign announced Tuesday that the president plans to appear at a "Catholics For Trump" coalition kick-off event in Milwaukee next week.

Asked Tuesday about the possibility of scaling back campaign events in keeping with the administration’s recommendation, Pence said Tuesday that “that'll be a decision that's made, literally, on a day-to-day basis” and that he was confidence the campaign would take “the very best information and make the very best decision going forward.”

The Trump campaign declined to comment when asked if they plan to take any precautions at the Wisconsin event, which will take place in a state impacted by the outbreak with three known cases so far.

ABC News' Will Steakin contributed to this report.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events