As of Thursday evening, the Trump Organization had not changed its public posture — or outlined what measures it is taking to protect club members and guests — as the virus has spread more widely across the country, including to all nine states and the District of Columbia where the company operates in the United States.
President Trump’s decision to restrict travel from Europe did not apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland — countries where he happens to own three golf courses.
The Trump Organization is still owned by President Trump but is run by his adult sons. The company did not respond to requests for comment about how it was addressing the coronavirus.
The broader U.S. hotel industry has taken a sharp hit since the beginning of March. The industry watchdog STR reported that — during the first week of March — occupancy across U.S. hotels fell 7 percent from the same time a year earlier, and revenue per room fell even further, by 11 percent.
“This is likely to get a little worse before it gets better,” said Jan Freitag, a vice president at STR.
Event cancellations have already begun to affect the company: a group of Texas bankers called off a March 22 reception at the Trump International Hotel Washington D.C. as part of coronavirus precautions. And a convention for the auto-repair industry now won’t be held at Trump’s Doral resort in Miami.
At Mar-a-Lago, one person familiar with the club's operations said that a multiday, lavish wedding had been postponed because of coronavirus fears, and a brunch had been called off.
These cancellations came amid news that a Brazilian official — who had met with Trump and Vice President Pence on Saturday at Mar-a-Lago — had tested positive for coronavirus.
Several hours after the Brazilian official's positive test was announced, there had been no guidance from the club about how to react, the person said.
“I was there all weekend,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the club’s private operations. “Now, I'm concerned.”
But the club appeared to be allowing other events to proceed.
Mar-a-Lago this week has been setting up for a massive, 700-person charity luncheon — the “Wine, Women and Shoes” bash to raise money for Big Dog Ranch Rescue, an animal shelter. The chairs of the event include Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Lea Trump, and the daughter of Trump’s former presidential rival, Georgina Bloomberg.
The organizers said Thursday they planned to proceed despite the Brazilian official's positive test.
“Most events have continued here in Palm Beach with strong attendance and no known community transmission of COVID-19 in Palm Beach county to date,” charity spokesman Chase Scott wrote in an email. “Additionally we will offer hand sanitizers, washing stations and, upon check-in, encourage all guests to refrain from shaking hands, hugging or kissing during the event as precautionary measures.”
An outdoor car show planned for March 20 at Mar-a-Lago, and a “Spring Fling” charity luncheon planned on March 29 at the club are also going on as scheduled, organizers said.
On Wednesday, before the Brazilian official’s positive test, the club had sent an email to members reassuring them that it would remain “your home away from home.” There would be additional hand sanitizer and heavy cleaning, but no closures, the club said then.
“We will continue to operate without disruption,” club manager Bernd Lembcke wrote, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Washington Post.
On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recommended residents “strongly consider limiting or postponing mass gatherings in the state of Florida.”
In both Chicago and New York, small investors in the Trump hotels have received letters in recent days saying that the hotels were being given extra cleaning, and that hand sanitizers had been put out in public areas. The Trump Organization warned investors in Chicago that the coronavirus was depressing tourism across the city.
In contrast to some of Trump’s own comments — which have downplayed the danger of the virus — the Trump hotel in Chicago said it was taking significant measures: giving managers special training in hygiene, increasing the frequency of cleanings, and adding hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the hotel’s public areas.
“Our cleaning procedures and policies at the Chicago property are meticulously followed and executed by our staff and vendors each day,” the Trump Chicago hotel’s management wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post.
Freitag, of the hotel industry watchdog group, said that hotels catering to conferences and meetings would be especially hard-hit, because those cancellations wipe out a lot of business at once, and because the complex logistics of large conferences make them difficult to postpone. They are simply canceled instead.
“The demand for meetings that is going away today will not return” for an extended time, Freitag said.