President Donald Trump said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic would probably worsen before improving, but said getting a vaccine is a “top priority” as he appeared at a White House virus briefing for the first time since April.
In a rare acknowledgment of potential bad news, Trump said the pandemic “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better, something I don’t like saying about things but that’s the way it is.”
After weeks of focusing on issues unrelated to the pandemic and not wearing a mask himself, the president also urged Americans to wear face coverings and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
“We’re asking everybody that when are you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” Trump said, a day after tweeting a picture of himself wearing one. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact,” he said.
Trump’s revival of the briefings came as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 in the U.S. rose above 3.8 million on Tuesday.
Trump lags presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in polls before the November election and more Americans disapprove of his handling of the pandemic than approve.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Americans’ views of Trump’s handling of the outbreak have deteriorated. The survey showed 38% approved of his handling of the pandemic, down from 46% in May. Sixty percent disapprove, up from 53% in May. In a Quinnipiac University poll released July 15, two-thirds of respondents said they didn’t trust information Trump was giving about the coronavirus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert was notably absent from the briefings unlike press conferences Trump held earlier this year. He told CNN he wasn’t invited. Trump said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was “right outside” the room.
In recent days, Trump has called Fauci “a little bit of an alarmist,” as Fauci has defended his own response to the outbreak.
Trump had regularly appeared at the White House briefing room podium until late April, when he suggested that injecting toxic disinfectant could help treat the coronavirus.
The president called the outbreak the “China virus” during the briefing, reprising a slap at Beijing, and said the country “should have stopped it.” The initial cases of the virus occurred in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
In recent speeches, Biden has criticized Trump for what he says is his failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s quit on you. He’s quit on this country,” Biden said of the president in a speech on Tuesday.
U.S. stock indexes DJIA, +0.59% finished mostly higher Tuesday, encouraged in part by the promise of additional U.S. fiscal stimulus, after the European Union forged a historic budget package intended to dampen the economic impact of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.