U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered flags on all federal buildings and monuments lowed to half-staff for the next three days in memory of all Americans who have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
He made the announcement late Thursday on Twitter at the same time he said the lowered flags Monday will also honor servicemen and women “who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation” as the country marks Memorial Day.
Meanwhile, Michigan's attorney general said Trump may not be invited back to the state if he refuses to wear a face mask in public.
Trump on Thursday visited a Ford auto factory near Detroit that has been converted into a plant to build ventilators.
All of the Ford executives who were showing Trump around the plant were wearing face masks. But Trump, as he has always done, refused to wear one.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said it isn’t just Ford Motors’ policy that all visitors to its plants wear a mask – it is also state law.
“He’s going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facilities inside our state … we’re going to have to take action” against any company that allows it in the future,” Nessel said.
When asked if Trump was told it was not acceptable to not wear a mask in the plant, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, “It’s up to him.”
Trump claimed he did wear a mask out of view of reporters because he said he did not want to give the media the pleasure of seeing it.
The president has reportedly told White House aides that he does not want to wear a mask in public because he thinks it makes him look weak.
Complaints from many Democrats and some governors that the White House’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak has been incoherent has apparently had little effect on Trump’s approval rating.
A new poll by the Associated Press and University of Chicago gives him a 41 percent job approval rating -- a number that has been consistent throughout his presidency.
Also Thursday, the president said the government has made an agreement with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce 400 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.
AstraZeneca said it has received more than $1 billion from federal researchers.
“We have a lot of things happening on the vaccine front,” Trump told reporters. “We’re so far ahead of where people thought we’d be.”
The U.S. government has other deals with Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and the French company Sanofi for vaccine development.
Some critics have said they are concerned that rich countries such as the United States will corner the market on vaccines because of the huge amounts of money they are investing.
Experts have said a coronavirus vaccine may not be ready for as long as 18 months, but recent progress in testing indicates one may be ready sooner than later.
The coronavirus has taken the life of someone who spent 55 years in the White House but never made headlines or stood behind a microphone in front of reporters.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was a White House butler who served every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama before a stroke forced him into retirement in 2012.
His granddaughter said he died last week of COVID-19.
The Obamas, Clintons, and the George W. Bush family all said Thursday that Jerman was a kind and generous man who helped make the vast and sometimes cold and unfriendly White House feel like a home.