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“People say that’s a very distinct possibility,” Trump said when asked a possible second wave while in Michigan. “It's standard. And, we're going put out the fires. We're not going to close the country.”
Trump’s comments came as he was touring a Ford Motor Co. plant outside of Detroit that has converted its automobile manufacturing facility into one making ventilators. During a speech at the plant, the president praised Ford workers for their efforts to produce thousands of ventilators during the pandemic.
“The global pandemic proves once and for all that for America to be a strong nation, America needs to be a manufacturing nation,” Trump said. “I’m fighting to bring back our jobs from China and many other countries.”
Conservative radio host Buck Sexton said Trump had told this to him during a White House interview Wednesday, saying, “We will not do a lockdown for the second wave that is likely to come in the winter.”
During his speech, the president also lashed out at China for its role in the coronavirus pandemic.
“It came in from China and it should have been stopped in China,” he said.
The first reports of the contagion surfaced late last year in Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province, and the disease quickly spread across the globe. As of Thursday, over 5 million people have been infected worldwide with over 329,000 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering [CSSE] at Johns Hopkins University.
Trump’s trip to Michigan – a battleground state that he won in the 2016 election – was only his third trip away from the Washington-area since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. and comes amid feuds with the state's Democratic governor and other officials in Michigan. A recent Fox News poll had the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, leading Trump by eight points in Michigan.
The poll also found that the majority of Michigan voters were concerned about coronavirus; thought Trump was too slow reacting to it; and favored waiting to reopen the economy. This came despite numerous protests and jabs from Trump over social media that have hit Lansing over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stringent stay-at-home orders.
Trying to signal to the nation that life was returning to normal, the president had begun started again, with all of his initial trips to states likely to be hot contests in this November’s election. Campaign advisers seemingly have grown increasingly worried about Michigan, believing that the president’s attacks on Whitmer have not worked and that the toll the virus has taken in the Detroit area, particularly among African Americans, will prove costly politically.
The president’s advisers are said to have become convinced that of the three Rust Belt states that Trump took from Democrats in 2016, Michigan would be much more difficult to win again than Pennsylvania and, especially, Wisconsin.
Michigan has been a frequent target for Trump, who on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal funds over the state’s expanded vote-by-mail effort.
“We don’t want anyone to do mail-in ballots,” Trump told reporters on Thursday before leaving for Michigan. That state drew the president’s ire announcing this week it was sending ballot-request forms to all voters to encourage safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump, who has voted by mail absentee as recently as this March in Florida’s Republican presidential primary, did say he would support exceptions for those who were sick — or president.
“Now, if somebody has to mail it in because they’re sick, or by the way because they live in the White House and they have to vote in Florida and they won’t be in Florida, but there’s a reason for it, that’s OK," Trump said.
“To really vote and without fraud,” Trump said later in Michigan, “you have to go to the polling place." He added of mail-in balloting, “Obviously there’s going to be fraud. We’re not babies.”
Trump also drew criticism for not wearing a face mask or goggles during his entire time at the Ford plant.
When questioned by reporters about his lack of protection, the president said he did wear one before meeting with the media but took it off because he didn’t “want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
Ford said everyone in its factories needed wear personal protective equipment, including masks, and that its policy has been communicated to the White House. At least two people who worked in the White House and had been physically close to Trump recently tested positive for the virus. Officials said Trump has been tested daily; he said Thursday he tested negative that morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.