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- 45th President of the United States
WASHINGTON – After declaring a national emergency to combat the coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump shook hands with a series of corporate executives after they each made remarks at the White House podium – despite repeated advice from his own public health experts against such contact.
Only one company official, Bruce Greenstein of the home healthcare provider LHC Group, moved his hand away from Trump’s outstretched hand and offered an elbow instead.
“I like that. That's good," Trump said a bit awkwardly after elbow-bumping Greenstein.
Trump had already shaken hands with officials from CVS, Walmart and other companies at the Rose Garden event. The executives each talked at the lectern after Trump about what their companies are doing to help the White House with a national response to the highly contagious virus.
Trump and other speakers also repeatedly touched the microphone and the lectern as they spoke.
Everybody should be “social distancing” bit Trump - who has recently met with at least one person who has tested positive for COVID-19 - shakes folks by the hand at the national emergency announcement. pic.twitter.com/pcy1XoC13g
— Carlton Reid (@carltonreid) March 13, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised Americans to avoid shaking hands with other people, as well as to avoid "high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails," etc.
Dr. Richard Carmona, who was Surgeon General in the George W. Bush Administration, said President Trump’s staff should have advised him not to shake hands.
"It was a missed opportunity to shape the patterns of behavior we’re hoping to shape," said Carmona, now a distinguished professor at the University of Arizona and chief of innovation at the wellness resort Canyon Ranch.
Carmona said he would have also told Trump to “stand back a little bit and tell people why you’re doing it. Set the tone for everyone.”
Trump himself may have been exposed to the virus. He had contact with Fabio Wajngarten, the communications secretary for Brazil's president, who has tested positive for coronavirus.
Wajngarten was in Florida last weekend at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, and he posted a photo of himself standing next to the American leader.
Trump has said publicly that he's "not concerned" about the potential exposure, and the White House has said there's no reason for him to be tested.
"We have no symptoms whatsoever," Trump said during Friday's announcement.
During a meeting with the Irish prime minister on Thursday, Trump said it felt "strange" not to shake hands with people.
"It’s a very strange feeling," he said. "I was never a big hand shaker, as you probably heard. But once you become a politician, shaking hands is very normal. And it’s a very strange feeling when people that you know and like ... walk up and say, 'Hi.'"
He said he and Ireland's Leo Varadkar did not shake hands.
But Vice President Mike Pence, who is spearheading the White House response to coronavirus, said Thursday morning that despite the outbreak, and his own office's recommendations, he planned to continue shaking hands.
"I'm still shaking hands here at the White House," Pence told CNN. "I'm also washing my hands very regularly through the day."
Pence stressed that washing your hands is "one of the common-sense practices that Americans can engage in."
Contributing: Jayne O'Donnell, William Cummings
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Donald Trump shakes hands rather than elbow bumps at speech