Trump cheered by golf club guests as he says they don't have to wear masks

Trump cheered by golf club guests as he says they don’t have to wear masks

Trump cheered by golf club guests as he says they don’t have to wear masks

Trump cheered by golf club guests as he says they don’t have to wear masks

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Donald Trump was loudly cheered by guests at one of his golf clubs when he told the media they were not required to wear face masks because they were attending a “political event”.

As the US recorded 160,000 deaths from the coronavirus and the disease’s spread shows little evidence of slowing, the president defended guests at one of his golf clubs, many of them not wearing face masks, who had shown up to watch a press conference.

Having earlier claimed – contrary to the evidence – that his administration was wining the fight against Covid-19, he was asked why dozens of people were present in the room art the Trump National Golf Club at Bedminster, New Jersey while not wearing masks.

“Because it’s a political activity – they have exceptions for political activity. And it’s also a peaceful protest,” the president said, as the crowd stopped booing the questioner and began cheering Mr Trump’s response.

“You have an exclusion. The law says peaceful protest or political activity. You could call this a political activity but I call it a peaceful protest, because they heard you were coming.”

Guests at Donald Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, wait to watch him give a press conference on 7 August, 2020 (AP)

He added: “And they know the news is fake. They understand it better than anybody.”

It was not immediately clear what purported “exclusion” the president was referring to. On Friday, Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, which has the second highest number of deaths of any state in the US, behind only New York, signed an executive order requiring people to wear face masks in all outdoor public settings where it was not “practicable to socially distance and keep a six-foot distance from others”.

It also reiterated the state’s policy of requiring face coverings in indoor spaces that are accessible to members of the public, such as retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses, areas of government buildings open to the public, and mass transit buses, trains, and stations. The only exceptions were for health reasons and children under the age of two and for “high energy sports”.

“The hotspots we’re seeing across the nation and certain worrisome transmission trends in New Jersey require us to do more,” said Mr Murphy, a Democrat.

“In the absence of a national strategy on face coverings, we’re taking this step to ensure that we can continue on our road back as one New Jersey family.”

Mr Trump also said he would act unilaterally to suspend payroll taxes for all Americans through the end of 2020 and possibly longer and extend supplemental unemployment benefits and other coronavirus aid if no deal can be reached with Democrats on a new spending bill.

“If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need,” he said.

He added that an executive order could be signed by the end of the week, without specifying whether he meant this week or next week.

Mr Trump also said he would be working over the next couple of weeks on an executive order to require health insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.

Insurance companies were prohibited from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act passed under Barack Obama, known as Obamacare, which the Trump administration has tried to scrap.

Coronavirus in numbers

The developments came as Republicans and Democrats failed again to reach agreement for a new stimulus package to help the nation as it continues to reel from the coronavirus and the impact on the economy.

Congressional Democrats were pushing for $1 trillion in relief, but the Trump administration opposed such a sum.

“They said they couldn’t go much above the their existing $1 trillion. And that was disappointing,” said Senator Chuck Schumer. “We’re hopeful that they will think about it and come back and tell us they’re wiling to meet us halfway.”

According to Mr Schumer, the Democrats were willing to drop from their proposed $3.4 trillion stimulus proposal down to $2 trillion, but the Trump administration was not willing to go go beyond the $1 trillion already paid out to help Americans.

The developments came as new figures showed hiring in the US slowed in July, with the country adding just 1.8m jobs last month, a pullback from the previous two months.

Though the unemployment rate fell last month from 11.1 per cent to 10.2 per cent, that level still exceeds the highest rate during the 2008-2009 recession

Additional reporting by agencies

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