President Donald Trump struck a new tone Monday during a press conference with the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Whereas the President in recent weeks has sought to assure Americans that the pandemic “will disappear,” on Monday his message had changed — though it did so quite a while after such a change was warranted by the facts on the ground.
“I’ve spoken actually, with my son,” Trump said from the White House briefing room. “He says, ‘How bad is this?’ It’s bad. It’s bad.”
The President’s typical bluster and self-congratulation was evident at times.
For example, he asserted at one point that that “there are some places in our nation that are not very affected at all,” even though the current nation-wide testing shortage for COVID-19 means the disease may be present in large numbers in places where there are currently little or no confirmed infections.
And separately, he said “We have a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about.”
But Trump on Monday dropped some of his usual optimism about the disease. He announced clearly that young people and people with milder symptoms “can easily spread this virus, and they will spread it, indeed, putting countless others in harm’s way.”
He read CDC guidelines that emphasized “social distancing,” which public health authorities have stressed is the surest way of slowing the disease without a vaccine. “My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than ten people, avoid discretionary travel, and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts,” he said.
And he dropped his talk of a breezy end to the public health crisis.
“If we do a really good job, we’ll not only hold the death down to a level that is much lower than the other way, had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that,” he said.
The media’s coverage of the pandemic, he said for the fist time, “has been very fair.”
And, asked about a potential recession, Trump said one “may” be on the way — a contrast from Friday’s head-in-the-sand bullishness, when he sent an autographed print-out of a stock market chart to Lou Dobbs.
Given where things stand — the market gains he bragged of Friday were wiped out within minutes of Monday’s opening — there appeared to be little economic news on which he wanted to dwell.
“My focus is really on getting rid of this problem,” he said. “This virus problem. Once we do that, everything else is going to fall into place.”
“The market will take care of itself,” he added separately. “The market will be very strong as soon as we take care of the virus.”