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In Huntington Beach, mask debate continued, despite Trump’s COVID hospitalization

People aren't wearing masks near the pier in Huntington Beach.
The day President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, many people still weren’t wearing masks near the pier in Huntington Beach.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Along the pier in Huntington Beach on Friday, the talk of President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization was fierce.

This Orange County city became a national symbol of the fight against wearing masks earlier this year and was the scene of several protests by Trump supporters demanding that Gov. Gavin Newsom reopen the economy.

There was concern for the president from voters on both sides of the political spectrum.

Trump’s timing was perfect because “he’s going to show the nation that he will recover so quickly — just in time for the election,” said Jules Adger, a retiree, walking with his dog, Gizmo, along the pier.

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The Brea resident stood near a giant blue banner that read “Masks up, Surf City, USA.” Yet he and other visitors around him were not wearing face coverings. On his T-shirt, he sported a “Trump 2020" sticker.

Adger believes that by Oct. 9 or 10, the president will be back to good health, and that there’s no need to use masks “because more harm will come to you by breathing back your own oxygen.”

He said he has faith that the first lady, along with her husband, “will snap out of it, because she’s healthy. I really wish both of them well.”

Greg Mitre, carrying his longboard, said Trump knew the risks.

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“He’s playing with fire, rolling the dice, and eventually, he got it. If he’s going to be holding rallies and having people all around him, it’s expected. The leader of our great country has been absolutely irresponsible.”

Mitre, a retired dockworker from San Pedro, is waiting to hear if members of the president’s cabinet and those who often travel with him on Air Force One and Marine One will test positive for the coronavirus.

“I think it was pretty obvious that people who are wearing the mask, exercising caution, exercising social distance, will not come down with the disease,” added Mitre, 63. “Maybe some good will come of it, and the rest of the nation will start to realize that they better be careful and start wearing masks.”

Brandon Fox, a high school senior from Corona, said Trump’s diagnosis is “very concerning. It’s so close to the election.”

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From the pier, the Santiago High School student ambled toward downtown Huntington Beach with his brother and cousin. He wonders if the president will recover in time to go to the ballot box and what would happen if he does not.

“I pray that he will get better,” he added.

Nearby, his aunt Kara Wallace, a real estate agent, said she prays for anyone who is diagnosed with COVID-19, “regardless of their political party. I believe that political conversations are conversations that we should be having with our young people. They need to know what’s going on.”

Her son Michael Wallace, a high school senior, and another nephew, Dominic Fox, got to talking about how Trump proved “he’s human — not invincible” to a deadly disease.

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“This is not a hoax — this could happen to anyone,” Michael Wallace said.


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