“They’re in denial”: how Trump’s White House ignores the pandemic

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“They just don’t want to face reality. They’re in denial, “said an administration official close to the coronavirus task force.

Others close to the president say he is not in denial, but rather focuses on getting the Americans back to work and on optimism after a dark period for the country.

In meetings over the past few weeks, the president has focused on economic numbers and the development of a vaccine – not an increase in the number of cases – according to people familiar with the subject. Trump has also started to question the accuracy of figures from the United States and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that the number of cases is increasing in some areas, said someone familiar with the matter. Trump has already questioned data from governors and the country’s best health agency.

Even if the virus continues to spread, Trump has made it clear that he is ready to overcome the pandemic. He will resume his campaign on Saturday with an indoor rally in Oklahoma which is expected to attract a massive crowd, causing alarm among some of the best public health experts. He encouraged the governors to lift the restrictions put in place to avoid contagion. And he set aside the coronavirus task force that met once a day to coordinate the federal government’s response to the crisis.

However, the virus has shown reluctance to disappear. Florida, Texas and Arizona set daily new case records this week. States are among the 21 across the country, seeing an upward trend in new cases from week to week. Outside the United States, the coronavirus has caused further blockages in Beijing.

Go forward

At large meetings in the White House in recent days, Trump has not focused on the coronavirus, a change from the height of the pandemic when the President spent more time hearing experts in administration and refine its messages with helpers, officials said. The White House Coronavirus task force also met less frequently.

When the topic arises, Trump has asked for updates that could show that the economy is recovering from the pandemic recession and has urged advisers to speed up the process of finding a vaccine, potentially before the end. of the year.

Trump has shown less interest in hearing data from individual states and cities where the number of cases has increased, and repeated behind closed doors that an accelerated testing regime leads to more identified cases. He also suggested, without detailing his reasoning, that some states might provide inaccurate figures that show cases are increasing.

“If we stop testing now, we would have very few cases, if any,” said Trump at a meeting highlighting the administration’s efforts to help the elderly.

As Trump goes ahead with a campaign rally planned for Tulsa on Saturday, some public health experts warn that it is too early to organize a large rally in the state. The number of new positive cases reported in Oklahoma has increased since the end of May. A record number of 225 new cases were reported there on Saturday. The number fell to 158 new cases on Sunday and rose to 186 on Monday, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus is not as concerning as it is today,” said Tulsa health department director Bruce Dart in an interview with Tulsa World.

The Trump campaign said it would take participants’ temperatures and provide hand sanitizer and masks during the event. But wearing masks will not be necessary, and Trump himself has pointed out that wearing a mask is an optional step that he has refused to take in public.

Trump is “very happy to be back on the road and connecting directly with people,” his adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “I’m sure there are those who will never want to start again, because it’s obviously the gold standard and its stock and trade. “

Re-election ticket

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People around the president say he remains committed to reopening the country and has said he will not allow a further closure that could hamper economic recovery. Much of Trump’s thinking is motivated by the message he received from his political advisers, which is that strong signs of economic recovery are his surest ticket to re-election.

The President and his political strategists were bolstered by positive employment figures earlier this month, which reinforced Trump’s belief that his goal should be to continue encouraging national reopening rather than taking into account warnings of an increase in coronavirus cases in a multitude of states.

He also urged his team to work more quickly on a vaccine, hoping to have something ready before the end of the year.

He highlighted these areas – not recent case increases – at a Rose Garden event on Tuesday unveiling a new executive order for police reform.

“I always say, even without him, it’s going,” said Trump. “But if we had the vaccine – and we would – if we had a treatment, or a cure – one thing merges into the other – it will be a fantastic day. And I think it will happen, and it will happen very soon. ”

Trump’s emphasis on driving an economic reopening and a return to normal has manifested as an entire White House effort, with White House officials ignoring the mask-wearing guidelines during public events and Vice President Mike Pence writing a deceptive opus from the Wall Street Journal. Tuesday to state that the number of new cases of coronavirus is exaggerated.

Pence, who chairs the White House’s increasingly marginalized coronavirus task force, said in the editorial that the media “feared spreading indecency” even as 21 states have seen an increase in coronavirus cases over the past week.

In the editorial and in a phone call to the governors on Monday, Pence sought to reinforce Trump’s claims that increased testing is responsible for the increased caseload, an assertion that is rebutted by data. While more tests can lead to more cases in the short term, the higher percentage of positive tests in many states “cannot be explained by an increase in tests,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wall Street. Newspaper.

Fauci and other doctors in the administration have banded together to form an offshoot of the central White House coronavirus task force, a source close to the panel told CNN this week. Group members also include Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, the US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn and the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield.

The source said the group of doctors met two to three times a week by phone before briefing Pence. One of the briefings is scheduled for Wednesday, when the group plans to raise the issue of rising infection rates in many states.

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