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Our view on the president’s visit: Someone, please, hand him a mask.
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Our view on the president’s visit: Someone, please, hand him a mask.

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It’s not every day the president of the United States flies into Winston-Salem, let alone to our historic Smith Reynolds Airport. He’s scheduled to speak at 7 p.m.; doors open at 4 p.m. for those who would like to secure a closer view.

For a few fleeting minutes, perhaps more, the presidential focus will be on the City of Arts and Innovation. Maybe it will spark a little interest and people across the country will learn what we know: that this is an excellent tourist destination as well as a warm and welcoming place to live. The Arts District, the Innovation Quarter, Old Salem Museums and Gardens, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, SECCA, our first-class universities and medical research facilities — not to mention our many human-scaled neighborhoods, lush parks, appetizing restaurants and other amenities — make this a wonderful home.

But this is less an official presidential visit than a campaign stop, during which President Trump will make his case for reelection. People will attend for a variety of reasons: Some, to show their support and be inspired. Others, to take advantage of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their children to see a real-life president. It’s likely that there will be protesters.

Because we’ve seen area residents in action, we expect everyone to be on their best behavior, to show the president and the CNN cameras that we know how to express ourselves while showing respect for our neighbors.

The president arrives amid a swirl of controversy. The allegations from journalist Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic article, accusing the president of disparaging veterans, are still fresh. They’ve been backed by a variety of news organizations, including, in part, a well-respected Fox News reporter.

The president also made some disturbing remarks during a recent visit to Wilmington, when he encouraged his supporters to vote twice: once by mail and once in person. We’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

And over the weekend, new allegations arose that Trump’s new postmaster general, Greensboro’s Louis DeJoy, may have broken campaign finance laws by encouraging employees to donate to Republican candidates, promising to reimburse them afterward via bonus payments. We’re sure to learn more about that in the days ahead.

We’re particularly concerned about a more immediate aspect of the president’s visit, though, and that’s his view of coronavirus safety measures such as social distancing and wearing masks. Local residents have been very stringent about these measures, as mandated by state authorities.

The president himself has been inconsistent in his approach, one day saying it’s very patriotic to wear a mask, the next acting as if it’s essentially a fashion statement. When he visited Wilmington recently, the lack of masks and social distancing was impossible to miss.

We’re sympathetic to the president’s desire to present a strong image for his reelection campaign. But doing so at risk to public health is beyond irresponsible.

Despite his campaign’s assurances, the pandemic is not over. People in North Carolina continue to die from it. We’re all vulnerable, but some are more so, including our elderly residents, which the president’s supporters should keep in mind at the airport.

We hope that everyone who attends the president’s visit will be, one way or another, uplifted. Air Force One alone will be worth the price of admission.

Welcome to Winston-Salem, Mr. President. We hope you enjoy your brief visit.

And someone, please, hand him a mask.

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