Donald Trump made his first visit as president to the Lehigh Valley Thursday, and hundreds of area residents lined the roads around Lehigh Valley International Airport to watch it begin.
Under clear skies, Air Force One touched down at the airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, around 1:30 p.m.
Many people viewed the incoming plane from the parking lot of the former Hash & Hearth restaurant, a local landmark many longtime residents still refer to as Gregory’s.
Others watched from along Schoenersville Road, Airport Road and Race Street, which are the primary arteries along the airport’s west, north and east sides.
With many onlookers wearing patriotic apparel, waving American flags, holding up Trump banners and listening to American rock music, the mood was decidedly upbeat.
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🇺🇸🛩 Supporters of Pres. Donald Trump lined the roads around Lehigh Valley International Airport Thursday afternoon. Hundreds turned out to see Air Force One touch down around 1:30 pm. Trump will visit a medical equipment distributor in Upper Macungie Township where he is expected to talk about Covid-19 testing. More coverage will be on Saucon Source. . . . . . #trump #donaldtrump #maga #murica #airforceone #🇺🇸 #airport #lehighvalley #pennsylvania #covid #coronavirus #testing #visit #allentown #flags #pa #patriotism #america #usa #excitement
Trump’s visit to the Lehigh Valley, however, came amid the coronavirus pandemic; a crisis which in Pennsylvania has recently become highly politicized, as some Republican-controlled counties still under Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) stay-at-home order seek to reopen businesses earlier than the governor’s administration has said they are allowed to do. Wolf has warned those counties that they and their businesses could face harsh civil consequences for charting their own path, which he said would jeopardize public safety.
Trump endorsed the conservative counties’ rebellion in a tweet earlier this week, and pundits have speculated that his visit to the politically moderate Lehigh Valley was timed to try and capitalize on growing resentment about the shutdown among the state’s voters.
Pennsylvania is considered to be a key battleground state and critical to Trump’s re-election strategy. Although he narrowly won the state in 2016, and remains popular among many voters, polls also demonstrate strong support for Wolf amid the crisis, with a Washington Post poll released Monday showing that 72 percent of adults approve of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Wolf said Thursday that he will announce the names of additional counties that will move to the yellow phase of his reopening plan on Friday, which is when 13 southwestern Pennsylvania counties will move from the red to the yellow zone. An anti-shutdown rally is also planned for noon Friday at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, and is expected to draw Trump supporters, anti-Wolf demonstrators and conservative activists.
At Trump’s visit to medical supply distributor Owens & Minor in Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County, he outlined plans to ensure that there are adequate supplies of personal protective equipment needed to battle the pandemic in the future. According to published media reports, he also placed blame for shortages of supplies on his predecessor, Barack Obama, who he said did not replenish the stockpile following the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.
As of Thursday, Lehigh County had 3,378 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 133 reported deaths while Northampton County had 2,566 confirmed cases and 182 deaths, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Both counties are among the most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, which has been concentrated in the eastern part of the state since it began in March.
Statewide as of Thursday, there were nearly 60,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 4,218 deaths, many of which have occurred in nursing homes.