U.S. President Donald Trump honoured America’s war dead Monday in back-to-back Memorial Day appearances colored by an epic struggle off the battlefield, against the coronavirus.
Eager to demonstrate national revival from the pandemic, Trump doubled up on his Memorial Day public schedule, while threatening to pull the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte in August unless North Carolina’s Democratic governor gives a quick green light to the party’s plans to assemble en masse.
The U.S. death toll from the pandemic approached 100,000; North Carolina two days earlier reported its largest daily increase yet in COVID-19 sickness.
Trump first honored the nation’s fallen at Arlington National Cemetery. Presidents on Memorial Day typically lay a wreath and speak at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the coronavirus crisis made this year different.
Many attendees arrived wearing masks but removed them for the outdoor ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Trump, maskless as always in public, gave no remarks. He approached a wreath already in place, touched it and saluted.
Trump then traveled to Baltimore’s historic Fort McHenry, where he declared: “Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights. No obstacle, no challenge and no threat is a match for the sheer determination of the American people.”
He praised the tens of thousands of service members and national guard personnel “on the front lines of our war against this terrible virus.”
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His Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, chose Memorial Day to make his first public appearance in the two months since the pandemic opened up on the country. Biden emerged unannounced from his Delaware home to lay a wreath at a nearby park, with no crowd gathered to greet him. It was a milestone in a presidential campaign that has largely been frozen.
Biden’s words were muffled through a black cloth face mask. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made,” he said after. “Never, ever, forget.”
The U.S. leads the world with more than 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 98,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump tweeted his frustration with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who has been moving his state into a cautious reopening that will keep indoor entertainment venues, like its NBA arena, closed for the time being. The state reported a daily high of 1,100 new cases Saturday, and has suffered about 750 deaths in the pandemic.