Denver, Colorado 2020-10-17 14:15:01 –
WASHINGTON – Gone are the days when President Donald Trump stood on the White House podium daily, surrounded by members of his coronavirus task force. And the days when Vice President Mike Pence and other task force officials went to Trump’s office to brief him immediately after their meetings.
The White House will not say when Trump last met with the task force.
In the week following his release from coronavirus isolation, Trump demonstrated a new determination to downplay the threat of the virus that has killed more than 215,000 Americans and made it harder for his chances of winning another four years in the White House.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is near. We’re turning the round, ”Trump told supporters on Friday at an event in Fort Myers, Fla., One of many moments in a campaign week where the president attempted to downplay the viral threat. “Don’t listen to cynics, supporters and angry pessimists.”
In word and action, he is pushing an optimistic outlook even as coronavirus infections increase in Europe and public health officials sound the alarm that the infection rate in the United States climbs to a new high.
Over the past week, he has spread misinformation about the virus, undermined the country’s leading infectious disease specialist and maintained his practice of avoiding the use of masks. Efforts to reduce the virus have gone into haste as Democrats attempt to structure the White House race as a referendum on Trump’s handling of America’s worst public health crisis in more than a century.
The US economy is still about 11 million jobs short of recouping the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in early spring. The country has recorded on average more than 50,000 new cases of coronavirus per day over the past week. National and battlefield public opinion polls suggest Trump faces strong headwinds in his bid for a second term.
Olivia Troye, a former task force aide who has become a harsh critic of Trump, said that at the start of the crisis Trump was “asking the right questions” when medics spoke to her about their fears the country might do. faced with an upsurge in cases. in autumn and winter.
“This is why it is so completely reckless of him, having had COVID himself, to turn around this week and double the mask removal and parade like it wasn’t a necessary thing,” claiming to be immune, ”she said. “He redoubled information on the disinformation that came out of his mouth throughout the duration of this pandemic.”
At his NBC News town hall on Thursday night, Trump was asked if he should have known better than to announce his appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court with a Rose Garden ceremony and indoor reception where little of guests wore masks and social distancing was non-existent.
He responded by mistakenly citing a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to incorrectly suggest that wearing a mask does not lessen the spread of the virus. The study did not say that.
Trump has also been cautious in posting information about his health and would not say if he had tested negative on the day of his first debate with Democrat Joe Biden, two days before his positive diagnosis, only allowing, “Maybe I did it, maybe I didn’t.
After First Lady Melania Trump this week revealed that their son, Barron, had tested positive for the disease, Trump used fear of his child’s health and recovery to try to demonstrate that the virus was not a big problem for young people.
“It happens. People have it, and it goes,” Trump said at a rally in Iowa. “Get the kids back to school.”
Earlier in the week, Trump undermined the country’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr.Anthony Fauci, who at times contradicted the president’s comments on the virus.
“He’s a nice guy so I’m keeping him, right?” Trump reflected at a rally in North Carolina, adding the studiously non-partisan Fauci: “He’s a Democrat. … He’s (New York Governor Andrew) friend Cuomo.
In the countryside, Trump and his team often go without masks, a return to the status quo for a president who earlier in the crisis suggested that some people wear masks just to signal their disapproval of him.
At a milestone this week, Senior Advisor Hope Hicks returned to the countryside with Trump more than two weeks after testing positive for the virus. Hicks, the president and other associates boarded the maskless Maine One.
Trump defends his decision not to have a mask by saying doctors tell him he is no longer spreading the virus and remains “immune” for at least four months.
Public health experts say that by refusing to wear masks, Trump and his advisers are missing an opportunity to model behavior essential to keeping the rest of America safe.
Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor and Trump supporter, said the president’s rhetoric since leaving hospital has not quelled the nervousness of Tory contributors.
Several GOP senators in difficult races are struggling to keep up with an avalanche of contributions to the Democratic campaign that are in part driven by liberal anger over the president’s handling of the pandemic, Eberhart said.
“Keeping the plating that all is well may appease the president’s ego, but that doesn’t motivate donors,” Eberhart added.
Trump’s interest in engaging with Fauci and other senior medical officials in the Coronavirus Task Force waned a long time ago.
Fauci said in an interview with the Skullduggery podcast last week that the task force meets seven days a week in the spring, but now typically holds one virtual meeting a week and a weekly call to brief governors on the status of the virus. .
Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, continues to spend most of her time traveling, often by car, between hotspot states to try to help governors and public health officials manage their epidemics.
Neither Fauci nor Birx have appeared with Trump in public for months. As late as Friday, Fauci contradicted Trump, saying he was “concerned” that the president frequently described the country as “turning the corner” on the virus, a notion at odds with the data.
Tensions within the task force continue between Trump’s scientific adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, who is not an expert in public health or infectious diseases, and other professional scientists. They see Atlas, who joined the White House in August, as promoting dangerous theories around “collective immunity” and resisting more aggressive calls from Americans to wear masks. They see Atlas as reinforcing Trump’s worst instincts and lending the veneer of science to rhetoric they see as inherently dangerous.
Associated Press editors Kevin Freking in Washington and Darlene Superville in Fort Myers, Fla. Contributed to the writing of this report.