WASHINGTON – After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is embarking on a new story: learning to live with it.
Administration officials plan to intensify what they hope to be a more acute and less confrontational message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear guidelines in a context of business paralysis across the country. The United States reported on Thursday that more than 55,000 new cases of coronavirus and infection rates were reaching new records in several states.
At the heart of the message, officials said, an acknowledgment by the White House that the virus will not go away anytime soon – and that it will be present during the November elections.
As a result, President Donald Trump’s best advisers plan to argue, the country must understand how to move forward despite this. Therapeutic drugs will be touted as a key to doing this and the White House will increasingly focus on the relatively low risk that most Americans have of dying from the virus, officials said.
For almost six months, the administration offered a series of predictions and statements that never came to fruition. From Trump promising that “the problem will go away in April” and predicting “crowded churches across our country” on Easter Sunday to Vice President Mike Pence’s assertion that “by Memorial Day weekend, we will have this epidemic of coronavirus behind us “with the declaration of Jared Kushner the country” would really rock again “by July because the Americans were” on the other side of the medical aspect “.
This was all in response to the White House’s initial message in January that the virus was not a threat at all. When asked if he was worried about a pandemic, Trump replied at the time, “He is a person from China, and we have him under control. It’s going to be fine. “
The message then turned to the idea that the virus would be quickly wiped out by a strong federal response. “WE WILL WIN THIS WAR,” Trump tweeted in March.
Shortly after, the president asked the governors to open their states and said that he had the power to force them to do so. “RELEASE THE MICHIGAN!” “And” LIBERATE MINNESOTA! “And” LIBERATE VIRGINIA, “he wrote on Twitter in April. Within days, he decided to transfer responsibility for the pandemic to the governors, saying, “The federal government will be watching them very closely and will be there to help in many different ways.”
In recent weeks, the message has been that the country is back, face covers and social distancing are optional, although the number of coronavirus cases across the country has increased.
“We have to resume our activities. We have to start living our lives again. I can’t do this anymore, “said Trump in an interview with Axios last month before his campaign rally in Tulsa, where almost no one was socially outdistanced. and few wore masks. “And I think it’s safe. I think it’s very safe. A number of Trump campaign staff and secret service agents have contracted COVID-19 in Tulsa.
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Wanting to go ahead and reopen the economy in the midst of a recession and an impending presidential election, the White House is now pushing for acceptance.
“The virus is with us, but we have to live with it,” said an official, who said the administration was planning to send a message about the pandemic.
As is often the case with plans drawn up for Trump by his assistants, the question weighing on this effort is whether he will stick to the script. Trump said this week that he was “all for masks,” after months of resisting pressure to kiss face covers. However, in the same interview with Fox Business on Wednesday, the president said the virus “will just go away, I hope.”
This is not the message that senior administration officials have said they are preparing, and some of the President’s allies have cringed when he spoke in the past about the disappearance of the virus and then saw it spread.
Next week, administration officials plan to promote a new study which they say shows promising therapeutic results, officials said. They would not describe the study in more detail because, according to them, its disclosure would be “shaking up the market.”
Officials also plan to focus on high survival rates, especially for Americans in certain age groups who have no underlying conditions. In the United States, the overall death rate from COVID-19 is declining. More than 130,000 Americans have died from the virus.
Trump should be briefed by Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the most visible members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, before Monday of her assessment of the new hot spots she visited this week, including this that governors have said they need it and how the new wave is affecting minority communities, officials said. Birx was in Florida, Texas and Arizona this week.
One official said coronavirus task force meetings and public briefings would be more frequent – a change already underway this week. These meetings and briefings were daily for much of March and April, but diminished when Trump pivoted to focus on the need to reopen the economy. Almost 20 million Americans are unemployed today and the unemployment rate remains double-digit, despite a record drop last month.
So far, public briefings from the task force have been held outside the White House complex. Members of the Pence-led coronavirus task force responded to questions from reporters five times in five locations, ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services to various Coronavirus Sun Belt hot spots.
An official said the relocation of the briefing locations was an attempt to minimize questions from the White House press corps. Another said it was also designed to prevent Trump from being tempted to take over the briefings.
Some Trump allies had lamented that he hurt himself politically by sometimes spending two hours on the podium arguing with journalists and often deviating from the subject, rather than sending a specific message about the pandemic.
In recent days, however, Trump has personally asked the task force to resume briefings, but has decided that he will not participate, according to three White House officials.
The change comes as several recent national polls show that Trump is on the run, presumed Democrat candidate Joe Biden.
The president said on Thursday that when Pence recently met with governors and asked state officials what they might need, none of them asked for help from the federal government.
“No governor needed anything. They don’t need anything. They have all the medical equipment they can get. Thank you, US government, “said Trump.
But as Pence crisscrossed the country this week, visiting places where virus outbreaks have occurred like Dallas, Phoenix and Tampa, he quickly noted several requests from the governors of these states in real time. For example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday expressed his wish to continue federal funding for testing sites in his state, which was set for late June.
Pence agreed and promised to expand “this as long as Texas wants it,” noting that “everything is on the bridge” during a press briefing with other members of the coronavirus task force.
Pence noted on Wednesday in Arizona that Governor Doug Ducey asked for additional medical staff at their meeting and that the vice president later “instructed the acting secretary of homeland security to move immediately to supply the doctors.” and nurses and additional technical staff. “
Throughout his travels, Pence has been accompanied by Birx, a trend that should continue in the coming weeks, according to a person close to the working group.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, for his part, has issued terrible warnings about the future of the pandemic from other perches. He testified at Capitol Hill this week that if current trends continue, Americans could see up to 100,000 new cases a day.
In an interview with BBC radio on Thursday, Fauci said: “What we have seen in the past few days is a spike in cases far beyond the worst peaks we have seen. This is not good news, we have come to control this or we risk an even bigger epidemic in the United States. ”