Authorities in Lee County, Fla., on Saturday announced a woman in her 70s had died of an illness related to the novel coronavirus, which has spread across the globe. Details were sketchy, but the woman apparently returned from an international trip where she might have contracted the virus.
“We didn’t even know there was even a presumptive case,” he said, adding, “We need to make sure — where did this person travel? We need to make sure, if they traveled into the airport, who was on that flight? Let’s make sure they can get tested.”
“We need to have transparency,” he added, speaking from the state. “Like the case in Lee County. Tell people. We didn’t know there was a case until the person passed away.”
President Trump, the government official ultimately responsible for the response to the coronavirus outbreak, also was in Florida on Saturday. He was three hours east of Lee County, at his private Mar-a-Lago resort. He wasn’t at Mar-a-Lago all day, however. He spent several hours at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach — as he did on Sunday morning, as well.
The exact number of times Trump has played golf as president isn’t known because, unlike past administrations, this White House doesn’t share information about Trump’s activities at his golf clubs. (White House pool reporters who travel with the president and would normally report on what he’s doing are forced to wait out his golf-course visits at nearby facilities — a library, in the case of his trips this weekend.)
By our count, considering contemporaneous reports and the weather at the time, Trump has played about 217 rounds of golf as president, once every five days. He has visited one of his golf clubs on about 250 days as president, including his club in Bedminster, N.J., where he disappears from the public eye for weeks on end during the summer. One tally of confirmed rounds of golf — as when his golf partners reveal that they played or when he is captured by other club members on social media — has the total at 116 rounds, a figure that Barack Obama didn’t hit until months into his second term.
In the abstract, Trump’s habit of visiting properties owned by his private business is remarkable. When displayed visually, the effect is striking. Trump has visited one of those properties a little less regularly than once out of every three days of his presidency. In other words, for every week he has been president, he has spent, on average, at least part of two days at one of his properties.
The amount of time Trump spends at his properties is unusual, for many reasons. It’s also hypocritical, given Trump’s excoriations of Obama’s vacations and time on the golf course. In August 2016, with the general election approaching, Trump told an audience at an event in Virginia, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” The crowd cheered. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
There have been times when Trump apparently recognized politics demanded he scale back his visits to his own properties and leisure activities. When hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast in the summer of 2017, he visited the damaged areas and hunkered down in the Washington area to help lead the response. When the government shut down at the end of 2018, Trump canceled a planned trip to Florida — leading to the longest stretch of his presidency in which he neither played golf nor visited one of his properties.
During the 2016 campaign, he repeatedly accused Obama of playing golf instead of addressing other crises of varying importance, specifically trouble with the Transportation Security Administration and flooding in Louisiana.
While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2016
President Obama should have gone to Louisiana days ago, instead of golfing. Too little, too late!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2016
Then there was this in 2014:
President Obama has a major meeting on the N.Y.C. Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2014
The current moment would seem to be one in which politics might similarly demand that the president refrain from appearing to be at leisure. While Vice President Pence is head of the government’s coronavirus task force, it’s clear Trump himself has an active role in shaping how things progress. The Associated Press reported, for example, that the White House scrapped a planned advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging older or physically fragile people to avoid air travel. The White House denied the report.
During a visit to the CDC on Friday, though, Trump made clear he opposed Pence’s plan to evacuate passengers on a cruise ship anchored off the coast of San Francisco.
“They would like to have the people come off,” he said, referring to the task force. “I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them. I told them to make the final decision. I would rather — because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.”
The ship is still at sea but has been cleared to dock in Oakland, Calif., on Monday. Since Thursday, when Trump highlighted that only 129 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the United States, the number of cases has more than doubled, with 437 as of this writing. Twenty-one of those cases are from the cruise ship.
One school of thought suggests treating the coronavirus outbreak as limited in scope will help protect the economy from overreacting to the spread of the virus. Medical experts and other observers worry this approach will make the long-term effects of the crisis much worse.
It’s not clear how active Trump has been in that debate. It’s clear, though, that he wasn’t actively engaged in it on Saturday or Sunday mornings from the golf course.
It was Trump himself who argued that playing golf and running the country weren’t compatible. At that August 2016 event in Virginia, Trump’s insistence he wouldn’t play golf as president was coupled with disparagement of Obama for doing exactly that.
“Look at Afghanistan, what a mess. Look at everything,” Trump said. “If we didn’t do anything with Iraq, if we never went there, if our presidents went to the beach, we’d be much better off. If they just went every single day to the beach and took it easy.”
“Let Obama go to the golf course,” he added. “You know what? We’d be better off.”
Update: On Sunday, he played with a number of professional athletes who posted about the round on social media.