Table of Contents
- 1 Biden Pitches to Blue-Collar Workers in Pennsylvania
- 2 Trump Holds Event at White House a Week After Coronavirus Diagnosis
- 3 Biden Says He’ll Have to Win Election ‘Overwhelmingly’
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Swinging through a county in Pennsylvania that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012, Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a direct pitch to union and blue-collar workers on Saturday afternoon, in a speech laden with economic populist tones.
“There’s going to be such a race for job creation for unions, you’re not going to believe it,” Mr. Biden said, in a speech that was slightly truncated to escape the looming rain storms. “The only power we have is union power. You’re the guys who keep the barbarians on the other side of the gate from taking everything.”
But as Mr. Biden, the former vice president, and his campaign try to home in on an economic message in this closing stretch, he has refused to answer questions about his position on potentially expanding the Supreme Court if Republicans confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett, saying he won’t reveal his position until after the election. Mr. Trump, struggling in many polls, and other Republicans have sought to use the issue as a cudgel.
“The only packing going on is this court is being packed now by the Republicans after the vote has already begun,” Mr. Biden said in a brief Q. and A. session with reporters on the tarmac. “I’m going to stay focused on it so we don’t take our eyes off the ball here.”
On Thursday, Mr. Biden told reporters that Americans would know his opinion on expanding the Supreme Court “when the election is over,” and on Friday, he cut off a reporter who had begun to ask whether voters deserved to know his position on the issue, saying he was not going to play the Republican “game.” Last year, he made plain that he opposed expanding the courts but he has in recent weeks sought to cast the question as a Republican distraction.
Before his speech on Saturday, Mr. Biden toured a training center at a local plumbers union, again striking a message directed to blue-collar, working-class voters.
And, offering clear evidence about the importance of winning Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden was emphatic that he would not ban fracking.
“No matter how many lies he tells, I am not, not, not banning fracking,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump.
Before boarding his plane to leave Erie, Mr. Biden sought to clean up a quote he made during his speech — “The only way we lose this is by the chicanery going on relative to polling places” — that was being interpreted as a similar comment to the ones Mr. Trump has been making, falsely depicting a rigged election process.
“What I was referencing is the attempts that are made to try to influence and scare people from voting,” Mr. Biden said, saying his initial remarks were being taken out of context. “We should not pay attention to them. The American people are voting. They’re voting in large numbers. They’re going to determine the outcome, and I’m going to accept the outcome of the election without any question.”
The comments come as Mr. Biden has been leaning into a more populist message, pitching his campaign as Scranton versus Park Avenue, a reference to his hometown in Pennsylvania and the wealthy allies of Mr. Trump’s. He spent the top portion of his remarks at the union center recounting his blue-collar roots and how his father lost his job in Pennsylvania, which led to the family’s relocation to Delaware.
Once a deeply Democratic county, Erie was one of only three counties that Mr. Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 but Mr. Trump carried in 2016. As Pennsylvania is increasingly considered as one of the “tipping point” states that could swing the election, winning back voters in counties like Erie has increasingly been a focus of the Biden campaign. Saturday’s trip marked Mr. Biden’s 11th visit to Pennsylvania, according to his campaign.
President Trump greeted several hundred supporters gathered on the South Lawn of the White House from a balcony on Saturday as he is trying to recover forward movement in his campaign for re-election with just three weeks to go.
Calling it a “peaceful protest” in honor of “law and order,” Mr. Trump made his first significant public appearance since he was hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus.
“I’m feeling great!” Mr. Trump told the crowd, which was organized by his supporter Candace Owens, who has led a “Blexit” movement to prompt Black voters to leave the Democratic Party.
Mr. Trump looked and sounded healthier than he had earlier in the week. But in a departure from his typical speaking engagements, Mr. Trump appeared for a shorter time than the nearly 30 minutes that officials advertised: He spoke for just about 15 minutes.
“I know you’ve been praying, and I was in that hospital, I was watching down over so many people,” Mr. Trump said. He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic, which is flaring up in several states and around the globe, and once again insisted: “It’s going to disappear. It is disappearing.”
Attendees were supposed to fill out a screening questionnaire and also have their temperature taken before they could join the crowd. Masks were required, although it wasn’t clear if everyone in the crowd was wearing one.
The event was described by White House aides as an official event. But it had some of the hallmarks of his campaign events, including attendees wearing red caps with his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” In late August, Mr. Trump held the final night of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn and delivered his acceptance speech for the nomination in front of the balcony where he spoke from on Saturday.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday emphatically rejected the Trump campaign’s attempt to limit the use of drop boxes and other efforts to expand voter access, saying that Republicans failed to even make a “speculative” case that such procedures will lead to fraud.
In a 138-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan, who was appointed to bench by President Trump, also rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to obtain a federal ruling to circumvent state requirements mandating that poll watchers prove they live in the area near the sites they are monitoring.
Judge Ranjan ruled that “the problem” with the case brought by the plaintiffs — the Trump campaign — was that their allegations of fraud were “not concrete,” which gave them no standing in federal court.
“While plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is ‘certainly impending,’” he added. “They haven’t met that burden.”
The judge also rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to reverse the state’s directive that county boards of elections not reject ballots “where the voter’s signature does not match the one on file.”
These matters are now being sent back to state courts, which have thus far also rejected some of the Republican fraud allegations as unproven.
“Trump had such a low bar to get over in terms of showing any evidence, and he couldn’t even do that,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who represented the state in the case, said in an interview. “He can file an appeal, but he’s just going to lose again.”
The Trump campaign will file an appeal in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Matthew Morgan, the Trump campaign’s general counsel, said in an email.
The decision was a major victory for Democrats, who have accused Mr. Trump and his allies of trying to limit voting rights to minority groups in the state’s highest-density areas, and of busing in Trump campaign supporters to intimidate voters in the guise of monitoring polling places for fraud.
“Today is another loss for Republican’s effort to make voting more difficult and a victory for democracy and the millions of Pennsylvania voters who will vote by mail,” Marc Elias, a Democratic election lawyer who has been working on state level voting rights cases.
Making a stop in Las Vegas during a two-day Western swing, Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday called President Trump’s efforts to undermine trust in the election results an attempt to “scare us” that could be countered only by giving Mr. Biden an unassailably large mandate.
“We can’t just win, we have to win overwhelmingly,” Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said. “So he can’t be in a position where he can put the phony challenges that he’s talking about.”
Later, delivering a speech while wearing a mask before a drive-in audience in Las Vegas, Mr. Biden ripped Mr. Trump for his behavior since he contracted the coronavirus.
“His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis, the destabilizing effect it’s having on our government is unconscionable,” Mr. Biden said. “The longer Donald Trump is president the more reckless he gets.”
Earlier, to a group of Latino leaders, Mr. Biden warned about Mr. Trump’s broader attempts to sow mistrust ahead of an election that public polls show him trailing by making unfounded claims that mail-in voting is rife with fraud. Ballot glitches that have been reported so far have been overwhelmingly caused by incompetence or negligence that does not advantage either side.
Mr. Trump highlighted another on Friday, using his Twitter platform to point out that Franklin County, Ohio — a swing state — had sent voters nearly 50,000 incorrect absentee ballots. “A Rigged Election!!!” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Biden pushed back on the broader effort. “He tried to continue to convince everybody there’s ways they can play with the vote and undermine the vote. They can’t,” he said. “If we show up, we win.”
President Trump’s campaign has started airing a television ad focused on his coronavirus infection, an attempt to reset the way voters view the president on a major issue in the election.
A majority of voters have a negative view of Mr. Trump’s handling of the virus, according to public opinion polls. The spot seeks to use his release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as evidence that he is on top of a virus he has repeatedly played down.
“President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America,” the ad’s narrator says. “Together, we rose to meet the challenge, protecting our seniors, getting them lifesaving drugs in record time, sparing no expense. President Trump tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.”
The ad then cuts to an interview with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci from the end of March, when the virus was just starting, saying, “I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more.” Dr. Fauci, the country’s top epidemiologist, has tangled with the White House for much of the year over its coronavirus response.
The ad concludes: “We’ll get through this together. We’ll live carefully, but not afraid.”
The Biden campaign is releasing a new ad featuring Cindy McCain, widow of the long-serving Republican Senator John McCain, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. works to press his advantage with moderate voters and to appeal to Republican-leaning Americans who are disillusioned with President Trump.
“Joe Biden’s dedicated his life to this country and working across the aisle to get things done,” Ms. McCain says in the spot. “Joe will always fight for the American people, just like John did.”
The ad closes with an image of the two men — who were on opposing party tickets in 2008 — standing together.
The ad is set to air across Arizona — the McCains’ home state and a critical presidential battleground — starting on Saturday, and then nationwide on Fox News Sunday, 60 Minutes and during NFL football games on Sunday, the campaign announced.
Ms. McCain officially endorsed Mr. Biden late last month after a report in The Atlantic that Mr. Trump had referred to members of the military as “suckers” and “losers.” Mr. Trump had repeatedly disparaged her husband, speaking dismissively of his military service and time as a prisoner of war.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican whose embrace of President Trump threatens to sweep him from what was once a safe conservative seat, declared that Black people “can go anywhere in this state” as long as they are “conservative, not liberal” during a candidate’s forum on Friday night.
The “go anywhere” remark came after Mr. Graham touted his friendship with the state’s other Republican senator, Tim Scott, who is Black — and after Mr. Graham said that a candidate of any color could succeed in South Carolina, provided the person shared the state’s right-of-center “values.”
Critics quickly called out Mr. Graham for what they described as an attempt to dictate an acceptable path for Black political leaders in a state with a long and troubled racial history.
“Listen to Lindsey Graham declare what Black people can and can’t do,” wrote Simran Jeet Singh, a writer and anti-racism activist, on Twitter Saturday.
“White people don’t get to tell black people how to think or vote anymore,” added Jimmy Williams, a veteran South Carolina Democratic political consultant, in a Twitter post after the forum.
Friday’s event was supposed to be the second shared-stage debate, a much-anticipated showdown between Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Jaime Harrison, a state Democratic Party official and well-funded challenger who is Black.
That format was scrapped at the last minute on Friday after Mr. Graham refused a request by Mr. Harrison to take a coronavirus test before their joint appearance. Mr. Harrison subsequently refused to share the same space with him.
Instead of a debate on Friday, Mr. Graham and Mr. Harrison, who is tied or slightly trailing his opponent in recent polls, answered questions from a panel of moderators in back-to-back 30-minute sessions in Spartanburg that largely focused on the coronavirus pandemic and racial issues.
When the topic turned to the issue of police brutality, Mr. Graham said he backed some police reforms, opined that the officers who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis “should pay a price,” then claimed that the demonstrations that followed Mr. Floyd’s killing constituted “a war” on police.
Mr. Graham went on to say that he believed Black candidates, and those from immigrant communities, had a major role to play as long as they reflected “the values” of the state.
“Do I believe that South Carolina is a racist state? No,” Mr. Graham said.
“I am asking every African-American out there, look at my record,” he added, referring to his support of historically black colleges and universities. “I care about everybody, if you are a young African-American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state, you just need to be conservative, not liberal.”
For his part, Mr. Harrison hammered away on Mr. Graham, calling him “out of touch” and accusing him of prioritizing the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice over passing a stimulus bill.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, said in a tweet on Saturday that he had been released from the hospital that morning, one week after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Mr. Christie is one of at least a dozen people who tested positive in the days after attending a Sept. 26 Rose Garden event for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and had huddled with President Trump and his close advisers during debate preparations just days before Mr. Trump tested positive.
Mr. Christie, who is overweight and has a history of asthma, said last week that he had checked himself into Morristown Medical Center in consultation with his doctors.
“I am happy to let you know that this morning I was released from Morristown Medical Center,” he wrote on Twitter. “I want to thank the extraordinary doctors & nurses who cared for me the last week. Thanks to my family & friends fro their prayers.”
He ended his message with an intriguing pledge: “I will have more to say about all of this next week.”
I am happy to let you know that this morning I was released from Morristown Medical Center. I want to thank the extraordinary doctors & nurses who cared for me for the last week. Thanks to my family & friends for their prayers. I will have more to say about all of this next week.
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 10, 2020
Since the early days of the pandemic, the White House has regularly used rapid coronavirus tests to screen staff members and guests for the coronavirus because they are fast, portable and easy to operate.
These tests, however, frequently miss infections in people without symptoms. Nevertheless, those who tested negative would often skip other precautions, like wearing a mask or social distancing.
And while officials had given the impression that Mr. Trump was getting tested every day, the White House has since conceded that tests were not as frequent and has refused to reveal the last time Mr. Trump tested negative.
Guests at the reception for Judge Barrett were said to be tested. Part of the event was indoors, and photographs show few masks among the guests there, or later in the larger outdoor portion.
The president also huddled with advisers for maskless preparation sessions ahead of the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.
Several of those involved besides Mr. Christie have said they have since tested positive, including Kellyanne Conway, a former White House adviser; Hope Hicks, a current adviser; and Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, a Republican closely allied to President Trump, is expected to appeal a federal court ruling on Friday that halted his plan to limit the number of drop boxes used to collect ballots to one per county — a move that could disenfranchise disabled, elderly and minority voters.
Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, granted a preliminary injunction, ruling that “the public interest is not served” by the governor’s order.
The plaintiffs, led by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, proved that Mr. Abbott’s executive order on Oct. 2 “likely violates their fundamental right to vote,” Judge Pitman said in his ruling.
The state is almost certain to appeal, Democratic and Republican officials said, throwing the fate of the electoral system in the nation’s second-largest state — a neck-and-neck presidential battleground won handily by Mr. Trump in 2016 — into limbo pending a resolution in the courts.
Several counties — including Harris County, home to the city of Houston, and Dallas County — had opened or planned to open satellite drop-off locations in addition to their central election offices.
The state’s decision to reduce options for voters to drop off their ballots comes as questions of voting rights, voter suppression and the integrity of the election have emerged as major issues in the 2020 campaign, and it follows disputes over drop boxes in other states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Courts are examining an order by the Ohio secretary of state that, like Mr. Abbott’s, would allow only one drop-off spot per county. In Pennsylvania, Republicans sought to ban drop boxes entirely, but a court rejected their challenge.
Three days, three rallies — one candidate trying to prove he is still himself.
President Trump, eager to demonstrate that his coronavirus infection was a speed bump on his path to victory, added two more rallies next week, one in Iowa and another Pennsylvania — on top of his planned appearance in Florida on Monday.
Recent polls seem to indicate that Mr. Trump’s personal health is not yet a central issue of the campaign — and Democrats have, for the most part, criticized his attitude toward masks and social distancing, not his physical capacity to campaign. Voters are far more likely to distrust his statements on matters of national well-being, including his repeated exaggerations about the pace of vaccine developments.
Nonetheless, he now seems to be sprinting, rather than just running, for president.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump travels to Johnstown, Pa., to deliver remarks at 7 p.m., as he often has, at an airport — this one named after Democratic Congressman and power broker, John Murtha.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump — who claims to be symptom free and off all medication but has yet to say if he has tested negative for the virus — heads west for a rally at the Des Moines airport, also scheduled for 7 p.m.
Mr. Trump’s first out of town rally since falling ill will take place at an airport just outside of Orlando on Monday evening.
The invitation to these events specify, “All attendees will be given a temperature check, masks which they are instructed to wear, and access to hand sanitizer.”
But in the past, such rules have been indifferently enforced.
Senate Republicans revolted over the contours of a $1.8 trillion relief proposal that is the Trump administration’s latest and largest offer to House Democrats, further jeopardizing already dim prospects for an agreement on a broad stimulus bill before Election Day.
Even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that the contours of the offer remained inadequate, many Republican Senators lashed into the administration’s approach to the revived negotiations during a conference call on Saturday morning between close to half of the chamber’s Republicans and top administration officials.
The $1.8 trillion proposal that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put forward on Friday was the administration’s biggest offer since bipartisan negotiations began in late summer. The proposal came just days after President Trump abruptly ended negotiations and then, facing a backlash, reversed course began urgently seeking to secure Democratic support for a deal.
The stark divisions between most Senate Republicans and the White House undercut the potential for an agreement before Nov. 3, even as the country’s economic recovery continues to falter and tens of thousands of Americans, businesses and schools struggle to weather the pandemic without federal relief.
The Republican criticism on Saturday was so severe that Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, at one point told the senators on the conference call that he would relay their concerns to Mr. Trump, but that then “you all will have to come to my funeral.” (Mr. Mnuchin concurred.)
Details of the call were described in some manner by seven people briefed on the discussion, who all insisted on anonymity to disclose details of a private conversation.
Most of the senators who spoke on the call signaled an openness to continuing negotiations. However, there was widespread dissatisfaction with how expensive the administration’s offer had become, as well as with the perception that Mr. Mnuchin, in talks with Ms. Pelosi, was relying far more on the Democrats’ proposed $2.2 trillion plan as a baseline than the two more limited proposals put forward by Senate Republicans.
“There’s no appetite right now to spend the White House number or the House number,” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said on the call, reflecting longstanding concerns among senators eager to protect their credentials as fiscal hawks and stave off primary challengers in the next election cycle.
Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee warned that accepting a bill with Ms. Pelosi’s support would amount to a “death knell” for Republican ambitions to retain their majority in the Senate and would “deflate” the party’s base.
Ms. Pelosi, for her part, informed Democratic lawmakers on Saturday that she found elements of Mr. Mnuchin’s proposal to be inadequate, writing in a letter that “this proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back.”
“When the president talks about wanting a bigger relief package, his proposal appears to mean that he wants more money at his discretion to grant or withhold,” Ms. Pelosi wrote, adding “at this point, we still have disagreement on many priorities.” She ticked off a number of unresolved issues, including what she said was insufficient funding for unemployment benefits, child care, funding for state and local governments and “reckless” liability protections that Republicans have insisted are a priority.
The second presidential debate, originally scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, has been canceled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, according to a statement released on Friday by the group.
Organizers first shifted the debate to a virtual format, citing safety concerns about the coronavirus. President Trump rejected that idea, saying he would not participate unless the debate was restored to its original, in-person format. Joseph R. Biden Jr. then committed to attending an ABC News forum that evening in Philadelphia.
Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign aide, said in a statement, “It’s shameful that Donald Trump ducked the only debate in which the voters get to ask the questions — but it’s no surprise.”
The commission reiterated its intentions on Friday to hold the final presidential debate on Oct. 22 in Nashville. The Trump campaign is on board. Mr. Biden’s campaign has agreed to participate, either as a one-on-one matchup with Mr. Trump, or in a town-hall-style format where both candidates take questions from voters.
The Trump campaign and officials at NBC News were negotiating plans for the president to appear at his own town-hall-style event on the network next week, most likely on the night of Mr. Biden’s ABC event, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
The NBC event is likely to occur only if certain medical conditions are met, according to two people familiar with the conversations, which includes Mr. Trump testing negative for the coronavirus.
There are 24 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Saturday, Oct. 10. All times are Eastern time.
2 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a “peaceful protest for law & order” from the South Lawn of the White House.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Afternoon: Delivers remarks in Erie, Pa., on “building back the economy.”
Vice President Mike Pence
1:10 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a Latinos for Trump event in Orlando, Fla.
3:40 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a Make America Great Again rally at the Villages in Wildwood, Fla.
Senator Kamala Harris
When President Trump used the prime-time debate last week to urge his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” he wasn’t just issuing a call for a grass-roots movement or raising the prospect of intimidation tactics at voting sites. He was also nodding to an extensive behind-the-scenes effort led by the lawyers and operatives on his campaign.
Over the summer, Mr. Trump named a new campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who was once a top aide to former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey before being fired amid the “Bridgegate” scandal. Mr. Stepien swiftly elevated a group of lieutenants focused on using aggressive electoral tactics, moves that led Marc E. Elias, the leading election lawyer for the Democratic Party, to tweet that Mr. Trump was “tripling down” on “opposing voting rights.”
One of the main architects of the effort is Justin Clark, whom Mr. Stepien promoted to deputy campaign manager. He has been viewed with suspicion among Democrats since he was recorded last year saying, “Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places,” and adding that in 2020 the party would “start playing offense a little bit.”
With polls showing Mr. Trump trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr. nationally and in most swing states, the president has increasingly focused attention on the voting process, declaring that the only way he could lose is if the election is rigged and refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. With the election less than a month away, his campaign has moved the idea of voting irregularities to the forefront of both its ground operations and its legal strategy.
The campaign is trying to shape the voting process in many ways. Following the president’s lead, it has undertaken a legal and rhetorical assault on mail-in balloting, claiming with no evidence that it is rife with fraud. It is also pushing the boundaries of traditional poll monitoring in ways that many Democrats believe amount to voter intimidation. And it has put legal pressure on states to aggressively purge their voter rolls.
Campaign officials tried to downplay Democratic anxiety and insisted they wanted everyone to vote who wants to do so.
“I think we need to just realize that we’re in a political campaign and all just follow the law,” Mr. Clark said in an interview. “There are laws everywhere about how many feet you can stand outside of a polling place and what you can wear and what you can do.”
On Tuesday, and not for the first time, Joseph R. Biden Jr. described President Trump’s reluctant attitude toward wearing masks as “macho.”
Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator and Fox Nation host, countered that Mr. Biden “might as well carry a purse with that mask.”
They were among the most direct comments yet that have tied stereotypes about acting and appearing manly to the basic precautions that doctors, epidemiologists and other health experts recommend to prevent infection by the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus.
The theme has been there since the beginning of the pandemic. Some experts who study masculinity and public health say the perception that wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines are unmanly has carried a destructive cost. The virus has infected more men than women and killed far more of them.
The experts say the best public health practices have collided with several of the social demands men in many cultures are pressured to follow to assert their masculinity: displaying strength instead of weakness, showing a willingness to take risks, hiding their fear, appearing to be in control.
Men’s resistance to showing weakness — and their tendency to take risks — was demonstrated by scientists long before Covid-19. Studies have shown men are less likely than women to wear seatbelts and helmets, or to get flu shots. They’re more likely to speed or drive drunk. They are less likely to seek out medical care.
Some initial research indicates a similar pattern is playing out with the coronavirus. Surveys have found that women are more likely than men to wear masks in the United States. And recent polls have found men give higher marks to Mr. Trump than women on his handling of the pandemic.
“To admit you’re threatened is to appear weak, so you have to have this bravado,” said Peter Glick, a professor of social sciences at Lawrence University. If you wear a mask, he said, “the underlying message is: ‘I’m afraid of catching this disease.’”