WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump booked back-to-back Memorial Day appearances despite the coronavirus pandemic, at Arlington National Cemetery and at a historic fort in Baltimore.
Presidents typically honor fallen military members by laying a wreath and delivering a speech at the hallowed burial ground in Virginia. But the pandemic, which is expected to claim its 100,000th American this week, has led to changes this year. Trump will only lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
He is expected to speak later at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. It’s where a poem, written after a huge American flag was hoisted to celebrate an important victory over the British during the War of 1812, became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Trump has been steadily ramping up his schedule in an effort to portray the nation as returning to its pre-pandemic ways as it emerges from a devastating economic shutdown intended to slow the virus.
This month, Trump has toured factories in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan that make pandemic supplies. He planned to be in Florida on Wednesday to watch two NASA astronauts rocket into space, and he played golf at his private club in Virginia on Saturday and Sunday.
“The brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms for generations did not stay home and the president will not either as he honors their sacrifice by visiting such a historic landmark in our nation’s history,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an emailed statement Sunday.
Trump will visit Baltimore just over a week after Maryland began to lift some of the restrictions it had put in place for the coronavirus, though they remain in effect in Baltimore. Baltimore and the Washington, D.C., area have the nation’s highest percentages of positive cases, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force.