Trump shifts messaging: Coronavirus ‘will get worse before it gets better’

“As one family, we mourn every precious life that’s been lost,” Trump said at the beginning of prepared remarks, one of the most specific acknowledgments in some time of the more than 140,000 Americans killed by the virus. The president pledged to develop a vaccine for the virus “in their honor,” though he later reverted to his insistence that the pathogen would one day just disappear.

The president touted progress on the developments of coronavirus therapies, including the antiviral medication remdesivir, which he said had “significantly reduced the severity and duration of the disease.” The government is rationing its limited supplies of the drug, however.

Notably absent from Trump’s speech was any mention of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which he has repeatedly touted as a treatment for Covid-19the disease caused by the coronavirus. It has been proven ineffective against the virus in multiple clinical trials, and can cause heart problems.

Trump also repeated promises that a coronavirus vaccine is on the way, but his own health officials have been cautious not to make promises about a specific timeline for an effective vaccine.

There are a number of potential vaccine candidates currently in trials. One candidate developed by Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health is expected to enter the final stage of human trials at the end of the month.

Still, the president’s briefing was a dramatic departure from just weeks ago when he sought to claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases were “totally harmless” (on Tuesday, he described the virus as “vicious and dangerous”), equivocated on the issue of wearing masks in public to cut down transmission (Trump said at the White House that “whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact”) and played down soaring case numbers as small “embers” of outbreaks resulting from more testing and as a byproduct of reopening the economy.

As Trump stuck largely to his script, he spoke Tuesday of a “concerning rise” in cases and for the most part steered clear of some of the more striking proclamations that led the once-daily briefings to be canceled in the first place — including his suggestion that experts look into injecting disinfectants as a potential treatment.

It’s unclear whether Trump, who has long struggled with consistency and message discipline, will be able to maintain even the small shift he demonstrated on Tuesday.

When he began taking questions from reporters, the president was less combative than usual, even as he deflected on a question about whether voters should make November’s election a referendum on his handling of the outbreak.

Still, when asked about his change in tone, Trump again insisted that coronavirus “will disappear,” and that he had never disagreed with scientists’ recommendations on social distancing, despite an aggressive push for the country to reopen, including, in the coming weeks, schools.

Trump ended the briefing by teasing more of them, but he indicated that they could, as past briefings had, touch on subjects perceived to boost his reelection prospects.

“We will keep you abreast of this and talk about other topics like the economy, which is doing well,” he said, noting that “the stock market had another good day” and attributing that to the “positive things happening on this front.”

Brianna Ehley contributed to this report.

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