Trump admitted playing down coronavirus danger
US President Donald Trump departs after speaking about his list of potential Supreme Court nominees in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on September 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump also fielded questions about the coronavirus and Bob Woodward's new book about him.
AFP/Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images
Trump admitted playing down coronavirus danger
Sebastian Smith (Agence France-Presse) - September 10, 2020 - 7:44am

WASHINGTON, United States — US President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimize the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a CNN preview of the book "Rage," due to be published September 15.

"I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.

Coming eight weeks before the November 3 presidential election, the revelation added new pressure on Trump. Opinion polls show around two thirds of Americans disapprove of his handling of the virus and he has often been accused of minimizing the crisis in order to try and boost his reelection chances.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump denounced the book as "another political hit job" and said if he'd downplayed Covid-19 it was to prevent a "frenzy."

"The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country, I love this country and I don't want people to be frightened," he said.

"I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy," he said. "We have to show leadership and the last thing you want to do is create a panic."

However, "Rage" will give fresh ammunition to the Democrats arguing that Trump failed to prepare Americans for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak or to lead them into a proper response.

In the interviews with Woodward, Trump made clear he'd understood at the outset that the virus was "deadly stuff" -- far more dangerous than the ordinary flu.

In public, however, Trump repeatedly told Americans during the initial weeks at the start of 2020 that the virus wasn't dangerous and would "disappear" by itself.

"He knew how deadly it was," Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden said while campaigning in Michigan. "He lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months."

"It was a life and death betrayal of the American people," Biden added.

But there was support for Trump from the highly respected infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, who has consistently told the public that the coronavirus requires a tough response -- even when the president appeared to be saying something different.

"I don't recall anything that was any gross distortion in things that I spoke to him about," he told Fox News.

Trump was keen to stop the country from getting "down and out," Fauci said.

Mixed messages

The US death toll from Covid-19 is expected soon to pass 200,000.

The president has repeatedly insisted that he has successfully managed the pandemic, which is soon on track to take 200,000 lives in the country.

He points to early decisions to ban travel from China, where the virus first appeared, and from hotspots in Europe.

However, at minimum Trump delivered mixed messages at a time when the country was looking for guidance.

He veered from declaring himself the equivalent of a war-time president to contradicting government scientists and calling for early reopening of the economy.

In February -- well after he had been briefed by advisors on the dangers posed by the coronavirus -- he said that the virus might go away by April "with the heat."

In March, he described the government's "tremendous control over" the situation and said: "It will go away. Just stay calm."

That same month, Trump compared the coronavirus to the common flu, which he noted kills "between 27,000 and 70,000 per year" yet "nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on."

At the end of March, a grim-faced president announced that a death toll of 100,000 was looming. Shortly before, he'd been talking up the idea of people ending social distancing in time for Easter in mid-April.

It took until July before Trump even wore a face mask in public. Early on, he also frequently praised the Chinese government's response, only later pivoting to ferociously blaming Beijing for the global health crisis.

DONALD TRUMP NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 24, 2020 - 4:04pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

October 24, 2020 - 4:04pm

The Department of Health reports 2,057 additional cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the national tally to 367,819.

To date, there are 47,773 active cases. The DOH registers 19 new deaths and 442 additional recoveries.

October 24, 2020 - 2:32pm

Poland's president tests positive for COVID-19, an official says.

October 24, 2020 - 1:24pm

A record of nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 infections over the course of a day were reported in the United States, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Between 8:30 pm Thursday and the same time Friday, 79,963 infections were recorded, bringing the total number since the start of the pandemic to nearly 8.5 million in the country.

The United States had already approached the bar of 80,000 daily cases in July, largely due to new infections in southern states such as Texas and Florida, where the virus was then spreading out of control. — AFP

October 24, 2020 - 10:40am

The northern hemisphere is facing a crucial moment in fighting the COID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization says, with too many countries witnessing an exponential increase in coronavirus cases.

"The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a virtual press conference.

"Too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity -- and we're still only in October. — AFP

October 23, 2020 - 7:21am

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted full approval to the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, after conditional authorization was given in May.

Gilead said the drug, sold under the brand name Veklury, was the only specific treatment for COVID-19 approved so far under a more rigorous process.

However, other treatments have received authorization for emergency use, though that approval can be revoked once the public health emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Other medications, like the steroid dexamethasone, are also being used in the fight against COVID-19. The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday granted full approval to the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, after conditional authorization was given in May. — AFP

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