Local supporters of President Donald Trump say his coronavirus diagnosis won’t throw his bid for re-election off track, despite months-long criticism from some that the president did not take the pandemic seriously.
Trump announced early Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for coronavirus, following the positive test of one of his close advisers, Hope Hicks.
White House officials said Trump is experiencing mild symptoms and is in quarantine.
Trump has regularly received criticism that he downplayed the severity of the virus and didn’t work quickly enough to contain it.
But the president also took flak for the ways he has personally ignored the guidance his own advisers provided to the public, mocking the use of masks and holding crowded campaign rallies.
Bruce Wessel thinks it was an effort to prevent hysteria.
“He didn’t want people to panic,” the North Attleboro resident said. “I think he wanted to portray, ‘Don’t worry. It’s not affecting me either. We’re going to get through this’.”
But although he supports Trump, Wessel said that may have been a misstep.
“Especially now,” he said. “It was, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ which I don’t like in any situation.
“He’s definitely going to take some kickback for this one.”
Among chief criticism is news that Trump attended a fundraiser Thursday even after he was told about Hicks’s positive test and his possible exposure.
Still, Wessel said he doesn’t think the diagnosis will hurt the president politically — or that it should.
“It’s easy to say, ‘He should’ve done this or he should’ve done that’,” Wessel said. “But they should just let it lay where it is and get on with everything when he gets back. The guy is sick.”
He said the pandemic became a political tool instead of something the country fought together.
He doesn’t agree that Trump didn’t do enough to curb the pandemic, pointing to daily briefings, early social distancing protocols and efforts to secure ventilators as evidence.
“He had the best scientists and they still didn’t know anything,” he said. “Even (Anthony) Fauci said something and then two days later said something different. It was uncharted territory.”
And Friday’s diagnosis won’t change that opinion or his vote — he still believes Trump has turned the country around for the better. But he does hope the president will acknowledge that threat of the virus is still real.
“I hate to see it going on and I hate to see he has it,” Wessel said. “I hope we see a slightly different Trump after this.
“I would love to see him come out and say, ‘I wish I had worn a mask on the airplane home’ or wherever he got it. Or that, ‘I’ve got a different opinion on it, now here’s what we’ll do.’ I don’t think he will, but I hope he will.”
‘I think he could use it in a positive way’
Raffaella Feinstein said she thinks Trump’s diagnosis could do the opposite and instead bring reassurance that many people get by OK.
“I think he could use it in a positive way for people who are still so fearful,” the Foxboro Republican Town Committee chair said. “I think he will bounce back, he’s pretty healthy.”
Feinstein believes the president took the pandemic seriously, saying there have been few points in history when manufacturers switched up product lines to help supply the country with what it needed to fight a crisis.
She also believes the president took necessary precautions: He is tested daily and took a two-week cycle of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in May, which he has often claimed prevents or cures COVID-19.
Studies have since disproved that, but Feinstein said she still believes there’s a chance it could have made the president less susceptible to the virus.
“None of us are infallible,” she said. “But this pandemic has been going on since March or maybe before and he just got it. I don’t think anybody really has answers to why. He was probably shocked when he got it.”
She said wearing a mask should be a personal choice, along with the decision to attend rallies.
“He’s worn his mask when he’s felt he had to,” she said. “But he is our president. They can’t lock themselves down. We need to see these people. I don’t want a president who is locked inside all the time.”
Feinstein said seeing the president or his opponent Joe Biden wearing masks sometimes feels “bizarre” or just for show, especially when they are distanced from other people or only around members of their inner circle.
She said each decision within the pandemic is situational, pointing to an example that early on in the pandemic, Americans were advised against wearing masks to conserve supply for essential workers.
“Think of all of the people who were infected then and didn’t wear one and passed it on,” she said. “But I can’t judge them.
“I think (Trump) will make the best decision for him and will do what he needs to do.”
Attleboro’s Republican City Committee Chair Jeff Bailey described himself as a “lukewarm” Trump supporter and said while he personally doesn’t believe masks prevent transmission of the virus, they are an important physical reminder for people to keep their distance.
As leader of the nation, he said Trump should have followed suit.
Still, he understood Trump’s optimism in curbing the virus.
“Him saying this is going to be over soon, I think it’s good. We need that,” he said. “People need to find hope and that’s what a president is supposed to do.”
But he doesn’t think Friday’s news will change anyone’s opinion on Trump or how he has handled the pandemic.
“I think at this point in the election, everyone’s attitudes toward him, whether they agree with him or hate him, are baked in,” Bailey said. “There are those who hate him so much they probably wish he would die from this, and there are those who love him so much they’d be willing to go to the White House and get the virus from him themselves.
“And then there are people somewhere in the middle. But I think if we had the election tomorrow or a month from now, the result would be the same.”