As the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. soared past 400 on Sunday, President Donald Trump reassured Americans that everything would be OK and that it would all be over soon.
Even as he acknowledged the novel coronavirus as an invisible enemy that’s attacking more than 140 countries, the self-proclaimed wartime president predicted “a great victory” in America.
“It’s gonna be a victory that, in my opinion, will happen much sooner than originally expected,” Trump said.
In a 90-minute news conference with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Trump rattled off the number of supplies the federal government had sent to New York, California and Washington, where a combined 242 people have died from the virus. The list of materials included respirators, surgical masks, gowns, coveralls and gloves.
The high volume of items being sent to some of the nation’s hot spots highlights the severity of the threat that the nation and the world face. Hospitals are warning of shortages of materials, including a lack of hospital beds and protective equipment. Meanwhile, governors across the country have closed schools, restaurants, bars and other venues in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, which has surged to beyond 33,000 cases in the U.S. Some leaders have gone so far as to order residents to shelter in place or meet a curfew.
The threat has even infiltrated Congress, where three members have contracted the virus and several others are self-quarantining at home. Two congressmen and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have tested positive in recent days. The disclosure of Paul’s diagnosis on Sunday quickly led to at least two Senate Republicans, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, choosing to self-quarantine, leaving the GOP with a slim 48-47 majority.
Trump said he believed the infected members would “all be fine” and mocked Romney, who crossed party lines earlier this year and supported his impeachment. “Romney’s in isolation?” Trump said. “Gee, that’s too bad.”
The president told reporters he didn’t see any threats to a $1.6 trillion emergency rescue package, even if several Republican members were unable to vote on the legislation while they isolate themselves at home.
“It’ll all work out,” he insisted. Within an hour, a procedural vote on the bill failed.
In a broad mix of remarks, Trump also argued that the country was “very united,” warned that the virus would’ve been “catastrophic” if not for the massive tax cuts he signed into law in 2017, claimed the presidency had personally cost him billions of dollars, complained that no one thanked him for refusing a presidential salary, predicted the economy would “skyrocket once this is over,” touted his Department of Veterans Affairs for having “the highest poll numbers in the history of the” VA and suggested that none of his predecessors could tell him anything life-saving if he sought their advice.
“I have the best people in the world,” Trump said. “Look at the approval numbers on the job we’re doing. I think we’re doing an incredible job, so I don’t want to disturb them, bother them. I don’t think I’m gonna learn much. And, you know, I guess you could say there’s probably a natural inclination not to call. Now if I felt that if I called, I’d learn something, and that would save one life — it would save one life, OK? — I would make the call in 10 minutes, but I don’t see that happening.”
Trump said he had a great relationship with Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California, who are both Democrats. But he was critical of the news media, telling one reporter “you asked a nasty question” and another that her question sounded like it was “100 percent wrong.”
He also expressed optimism that a drug used to treat malaria could be a cure for the coronavirus, remarking that there were “tremendous signs it could work.”
“Why should we be testing it in a test tube for a year and a half when we have thousands of people that are very sick?” Trump asked. “They’re very, very sick, and we can use it on those people and maybe make them better and in some cases maybe save their lives.”
“We think it might work on this, based on evidence, based on very strong evidence. We’re gonna see. We’re gonna know sometime after Tuesday,” he added. “I don’t wanna get anybody over-excited, but I’m very excited by that, by the prospect of it.”
Trump’s rhetoric on the drug is at odds with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In an interview on Sunday morning on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Fauci said Trump had been “trying to bring hope to the people” by promoting the drug.
“But my job is to prove definitively from a scientific standpoint that they do work,” he said, explaining their differing views. “I was taking a purely medical, scientific standpoint.”