Trump heads to golf course as US coronavirus death toll nears 100,000

President is believed to have hit the links more than 250 times since taking office

Coronavirus in numbers

Donald Trump has visited a golf course for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck, a day after a top doctor warned during a White House briefing that players should observe social distancing rules.

As coronavirus infections in the country reached 1.6m and the number of deaths passed 96,000, the president made his way to the Trump National Golf Club at Sterling, Virginia.

The pool of White House press reporters who follow him said he was seen wearing a white cap and white polo shirt. One longtime correspondent said it was the president’s “185th golf outing spanning all or part of 247 days”. An online counter of his total visits since taking office suggested it was around his 260th.

Reports said the outing on Saturday lunchtime was the president’s first golf trip since 8 March, when he visited his club in West Palm Beach, Florida. White House officials did not immediately reveal if Mr Trump actually played a game.

The Florida visit was also the same weekend he met at his Mar-a-Lago retreat with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose press secretary later tested positive for the virus.

On social media, reaction to Mr Trump’s visit was immediate. Not all of it was kind.

Jon Favreau, a former speech writer for Barack Obama, said: “Trump won’t do anything else to stop a virus that’s killed 100,000 Americans.

“He won’t do anything else to fix an economy where 40 million are out of work. He will golf, though!”

Underscoring the scale of the death toll, Mr Trump's hometown paper, the New York Times, devoted the entirety of Sunday's front page to the names of 1,000 of the victims.

Also on Saturday, part of the Memorial Day holiday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo warned people not to abuse the loosening of lockdown rules.

On Friday, he allowed up to 10 people to attend ceremonies honouring America’s military veterans. On Saturday, he reminded people to maintain social distancing and to use face masks

“It depends on how people act. You can have a safe gathering of 10 people. You can also have a wholly unsafe gathering of 10 people,” he said

Gatherings of up to 25 people were being allowed outdoors in New Jersey, although governor Phil Murphy said the loosened restrictions did not apply to outdoor dining or school graduations, which should remain under 10 people.

The White House said the president spent some of his day on Saturday speaking with the leader of Turkey, Recep Erdogan.

“President Trump and president Erdogan reaffirmed the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, as well as unimpeded humanitarian access throughout the country,” said a statement.

Mr Trump returned to the White House by mid afternoon.

Reports said there were a handful of protesters outside the golf club as he left. One held up a sign that read: “Trump makes me sick.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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