President Donald Trump donated his most recent quarterly paycheck to support the response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, his handling of which has received some criticism as he strikes a more optimistic tone than his own health officials.
He gave $100,000 to the government’s Department of Health and Human Services.
“President @realDonaldTrump made a commitment to donate his salary while in office. Honoring that promise and to further protect the American people, he is donating his 2019 Q4 salary to @HHSGov to support the efforts being undertaken to confront, contain, and combat #Coronavirus,” the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted on Tuesday along with a photo of Trump’s donation in check form.
“And you think that makes up for the millions of US taxpayer dollars he has wasted on his golf trips and what goes into his own properties,” one critic soon tweeted back.
Trump, given his personal fortune, has donated his presidential salary of $400,000 since he took office in 2017. Through that money, he’s supported such causes as infrastructure, STEM for children and the National Park Service.
He has also falsely claimed he is the first president to donate his salary since George Washington.
As the novel coronavirus outbreak which began in China in December has spread around the world, infecting more than 93,000 and killing more than 3,100, Trump, 73, has maintained a rosier view than other American experts and said criticism of him is politically motivated.
While officials all agree the risk to the average American is low, the president has repeatedly touted that his administration is doing a “great job” and blamed public worries on conniving Democrats.
“This virus won’t last forever. We have contained it,” Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said last week.
That same day, however, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters that health officials had become more concerned about the virus’ rapid rate of infection.
“The spread in other countries has raised our level of concern and raised our level of expectation that we are going to have community spread here,” said Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. “We’re asking folks in every sector as well as people within their families to start planning for this, because as we’ve seen from the recent countries that have had community spread, when it’s hit in those countries it has moved quite rapidly so we want to make sure that the American public is prepared.”
The American public “need[s] to prepare for a significant disruption” to their lives and plan for possible school closures, find out about teleworking options and if their health care providers offer telemedicine options, Messonnier said.
“We are asking the American public to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” she said.
The Trump administration’s request for aid from Congress was also slammed by Democrats as “too little too late,” and they took issue with a plan to move money away from responding to Ebola in order to fund coronavirus efforts.
Last week Trump also claimed that his Democratic rivals were politicizing the virus into their “new hoax,” fanning the flames of a panic in an effort to damage him politically.
“This can’t be about politics. We’ve got to have leadership that puts the input of public health experts first,” former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had been a presidential candidate, said last week. “I don’t know where the president got the idea that this is something that could just take care of itself when it got warmer. This is going to take sustained coordination, both within and across the federal government and the interagency; between the federal government and the private sector as there is a race to find new therapies and perhaps a vaccine; and internationally, among all of the different authorities and countries, that must be tightly coordinating the response to this issue.”
On Wednesday, Trump named Vice President Mike Pence the point person on the federal government’s response.
Trump critics pointed back to Pence’s handling of an HIV outbreak in Indiana while he was governor there, which experts have said was preventable except for a delay in implementing clean needle exchange programs to aid the drug users spreading the virus.
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