“I’ve always known this was a real ― this is a pandemic,” Trump said at a press conference Tuesday. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
Trump was responding to a question about his more somber tone on Monday when he advised Americans to avoid crowds of more than 10 people, a sudden departure from his previous characterizations of the outbreak.
“No, I’ve always viewed it as very serious,” he retorted. “There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar, but some people said it wasn’t.”
In reality, Trump has been downplaying the threat of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, up until this week.
Just over two weeks ago at a campaign rally in South Carolina, he posited that Democrats were fabricating the coronavirus threat to undermine his presidency.
“They tried the impeachment hoax. ... They tried anything. ... And this is their new hoax,” Trump told the crowd.
That day, officials had already confirmed 64 coronavirus cases in the U.S. ― likely a small fraction of the actual number of people infected at the time.
Trump had also been repeatedly telling Americans the coronavirus situation in the U.S. was much better than it actually was. Two days before calling the coronavirus threat a hoax, Trump falsely said of domestic COVID-19 cases: “We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.”
The next day, he claimed of the virus: “One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” Global health officials, meanwhile, were warning that it was just the opposite and that world leaders needed to take immediate action.
Last Monday, Trump drew false parallels by comparing a year’s worth of influenza deaths to a few months of COVID-19 deaths, deeply misleading Americans about the disease’s severity. In reality, the fatality rate for COVID-19 has been about 2-3%, while the fatality rate for the flu in the U.S. is about 0.1%.
That day, the total number of confirmed infections in the U.S. surpassed 700 ― again, likely a fraction of the actual count ― and the official death toll hit 26.
Just two days later, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
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