WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will be visiting Mount Rushmore on Friday for a night of fireworks which he is hoping will soothe a nation he has struggled to unite as it struggles to control the spiralling of coronavirus cases across the country.
On the eve of the country's Independence Day, the Republican leader will speak in the shadow of four of his notable predecessors: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, whose heads are carved into the granite in South Dakota.
The billionaire real estate mogul-turned-president, who has seemingly turned a blind eye to the shocking increase in the number of virus cases in many US states, has been openly exuberant about the Rushmore event.
Some 7,500 people are expected to attend — and social distancing is not on the agenda.
"We're going to have a tremendous evening. It's going to be a fireworks display like few people have seen. It's going to be very exciting," he said Thursday.
Will Trump speak about the pandemic that has claimed nearly 130,000 American lives, and the resurgence of cases in the country's south and west? The nation's top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, has said the uptick "puts the entire country at risk.
"So will Trump wear a face mask, setting an example for the nation after resisting for months, as many politicians and others, even in his own camp, have asked him to do? The Republican president is in a political predicament, badly trailing his Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls with four months to go before the presidential election.
For now, he is sticking with one tried-and-true message, that he conveyed Thursday: the coronavirus crisis is being "handled," the US economy is "roaring back," and 2021 is going to be a "phenomenal" year.
But in contrast with Europe, infection rates and daily case totals are increasing in the United States, and some states are beating their own grim records nearly every day.
Fauci has warned that the country could eventually see 100,000 new cases a day if things don't change.
For now, many states have paused efforts to reopen their economies.
Some have even backtracked and reimposed restrictions on bars, restaurants and beaches.