On January 22, two days after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, President Donald Trump breezily declared, “We have it totally under control.” Since then, we have witnessed the devastating consequences of his attempt to spin, bluster, and blame his way out of a national emergency that will go down as the greatest scandal of a scandal-plagued presidency. On the eve of the most important election of our lifetimes, more than 200,000 Americans have died, more than 7 million have been infected, and the numbers in many states are still getting worse. And now, an outbreak centered around Trump and his White House has further exposed just how careless and callous his response to the virus has been. This timeline details how we got here.
“IT WILL ALL WORK OUT WELL”
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Asked if his administration was worried about a coronavirus pandemic, Trump says, “No, we’re not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
Trump tweets: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!” • The CDC says it has developed a test for the novel coronavirus.
Joe Biden publishes an op-ed in USA Today: “The possibility of a pandemic is a challenge Donald Trump is unqualified to handle as president.…To be blunt, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies have left us unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.”
The World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern.” • At an event in Michigan, Trump says, “We’re working very strongly with China on the coronavirus—that’s a new thing that a lot of people are talking about….We think it’s going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you.”
“IT’S GOING TO DISAPPEAR”
Trump golfs at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Florida.
In a call with Woodward, not reported until September, Trump says the new virus is “deadly stuff”: “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed…It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Over the next six months, Woodward tapes more than four hours of interviews with the president. • Asked by a reporter if he thinks China is covering up the coronavirus, Trump says, “No. China is working very hard….They’re working really hard, and I think they are doing a very professional job. They’re in touch with the World [Health] Organization. CDC also. We’re working together.”
One day after CDC testing kits reach state and local public-health labs, most report that they do not work properly.
At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump says, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”
Trump holds a rally in El Paso. He does not mention the coronavirus.
Trump tells Geraldo Rivera, “It’s a problem in China. Has not been spreading very much. In our country, we only have, basically, 12 cases and most of those people are recovering and some cases fully recovered. So it’s actually less.”
Trump says, “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.” He continues, “And I spoke with President Xi of China, and he’s working very hard on this. It’s a tremendous problem. But they’re very capable and they’ll—they’ll get to it.”
Trump golfs at Trump International.
In an interview, Trump says, “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine.” • Trump holds a rally in Phoenix. He does not mention the coronavirus.
Trump holds a rally in Colorado Springs. He does not mention the coronavirus.
Trump holds a rally in Las Vegas. He does not mention the coronavirus.
Trump tells reporters, “We have it very much under control in this country.”
The White House asks Congress for $1.25 billion in emergency funds. • The Association of Public Health Laboratories writes the FDA, “We are now many weeks into the response with still no diagnostic or surveillance test available outside of the CDC for the vast majority of our member laboratories” • Trump tweets, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health [Organization] have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Trump puts Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response. • At a press briefing, Trump says, “We’re testing everybody that we need to test. And we’re finding very little problem.…It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.” He says the number of cases “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” • The CDC confirms the first instance of community spread of the virus in the United States.
At a rally in Charleston, South Carolina, Trump notes that there have been no reported deaths in the United States yet. “You wonder if the press is in hysteria mode,” he says. “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he continues. “You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it….And this is their new hoax.”
“I DON’T TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AT ALL”
At a White House meeting, Trump presses pharmaceutical CEOs to say a vaccine will be ready in a matter of months. Dr. Anthony Fauci corrects him: “a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.” • At a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, that evening, Trump says drug companies are “going to have vaccines I think relatively soon. And they’re going to have something that makes you better, and that’s going to actually take place we think even sooner.” And: “The United States is, right now, ranked by far number one in the world for preparedness.”
Trump tells Sean Hannity, “a lot of people will have this, and it’s very mild. They will get better very rapidly.” He continues, “So, if we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work—some of them go to work, but they get better….It’s not that severe.”
During a visit to the CDC, Trump says, “Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” • Trump also says he would like to keep infected people on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the California coast so the official case count does not rise: “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.” • South Korea’s central bank says it will start quarantining bank notes; some will be burned.
Trump golfs at Trump International.
Trump tweets, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” • Pence says, “Before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed.”
Asked about the economic impact of the coronavirus, Trump says, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
Trump claims that travelers to the United States are being systematically tested. (They’re not.) “We have a tremendous testing setup where people coming in have to be tested and if they are positive and if they’re able to get through because frankly if they are not, we are not putting them on planes if it shows positive….Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test.”
Trump declares a national emergency—”Two very big words.” • At a press conference in the Rose Garden, he is asked if he takes responsibility for testing delays. “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all,” he responds. When a reporter asks why he disbanded the White House pandemic office in 2018, he replies, “I just think it’s a nasty question….And when you say ‘me,’ I didn’t do it.”
At a daily briefing, Trump says, “This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over.” • He tweets, “The individual Governors of States, and local officials, must step up their efforts on drive up testing and testing sights [sic], working in conjunction with @CDCgov and the Federal Government!”
Trump says, “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic….I’ve always viewed it as very serious.”
Trump tweets, “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China — against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!” • He says his use of the phrase “Chinese virus” is “not racist at all.”
Trump tells Woodward, “To be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” When asked if he’d made time to speak about the virus one-on-one with Fauci, the president says, “Honestly, there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob.” • California Gov. Gavin Newsom issues the first statewide stay-at-home order. • In a press briefing, Trump suggests the FDA has approved the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. (It hadn’t.) He says, “It’s shown very encouraging—very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.” Also: “If things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”
Italy’s official death toll tops China’s. • At a FEMA meeting, reported by Vanity Fair in September, Jared Kushner says “free markets,” not the federal government, should handle the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE). He blames New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not getting enough equipment: “His people are going to suffer and that’s their problem.”
Trump tweets, “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”
The United States has more reported coronavirus cases than any other country. • Trump tells Hannity, “We’ve now established great testing….We’ve tested now more than anybody.” • At a press briefing, Trump says, “This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this country….Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.”
Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. • Trump invokes the Defense Production Act to get General Motors to make ventilators. At his daily briefing, Trump promises, “In the next 100 days, we will either make or get in some form over 100,000 additional units.” (HHS later says only about one-third of that number will be ready by June.) • Trump says governors “should be appreciative” of his administration and that he’s advised Pence not to call those who “don’t treat you right.”
At press briefing, Trump notes predictions that the coronavirus, left unchecked, could kill as many as 2.2 million Americans: “And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000—it’s a horrible number, maybe even less—but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we altogether have done a very good job.” • Selectively quoting the New York Times, Trump tweets, “‘President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise…”
Coronavirus deaths in New York and New Jersey double in three days. • At a daily briefing, Trump warns of “a very, very painful two weeks” ahead. • Trump says, “I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, okay? And I think that’s a great tribute to something, maybe it’s a tribute to me, but I don’t think I would have acted any differently, or I don’t think I would have acted any faster.”
“THE HARDEST WORKING PRESIDENT IN HISTORY”
Pence tells CNN, “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.” • The US Postal Service plans to mail 650 million masks to households across the country. An administration official later says the White House scrapped the idea since it “might create concern or panic.”
The Navy fires Capt. Brett Crozier after his letter is leaked asking for assistance with a COVID-19 outbreak on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. • White House adviser Jared Kusher says that the federal Strategic National Stockpile of ventilators and other equipment is “supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.” • The US death toll passes 5,000.
Trump offers rapid coronavirus tests to oil executives meeting with him at the White House. Afterward, he says, “Listen: They gave us millions of jobs. If anybody wants to be tested, we’ll test them.” • Speaking about the CDC’s recommendation that people wear face coverings, he says, “This is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it… Maybe I’ll change my mind, but this will pass and hopefully it’ll pass very quickly.” • HHS changes an online description of the Strategic National Stockpile that had contradicted Kusher’s comments a day earlier.
At his daily briefing, Trump says the federal government has stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine. “What do you have to lose?” he says. “I’ve seen things that I sort of like. So what do I know? I’m not a doctor.”
Trump removes Glenn Fine, the independent watchdog overseeing $2 trillion in coronavirus spending. • Governors complain that the White House is intercepting their orders for protective equipment and ventilators. Trump is “basically playing political games around life-or-death issues and leaving states to fend for themselves,” a Democratic consultant tells the New York Times. • The US death toll passes 10,000.
At his daily press briefing, Trump says, “We have a great testing system…the best testing system in the world.” He dismisses the need for nationwide testing: “Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We’re talking 325 million people. That’s not going to happen, as you can imagine.”
The Treasury Department orders that Trump’s name go on every stimulus check. • A demonstration against shutdown measures outside the Ohio state capitol sets off a wave of protests organized by conservative groups with close ties to the White House. • Trump blames delays in testing on the Obama administration: “What we inherited from the previous administration was totally broken, which somebody should eventually say. Not only were the cupboards bare, as I say, but we inherited broken testing. Now we have great testing.” • Asked about his conflicts with governors over when to reopen their states, Trump says, “When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
Trump announces he will withhold funding to the WHO, accusing it of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the coronavirus in China.
Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser with no scientific or medical experience, is named HHS spokesperson. • Trump says his administration could take action against governors who do not follow its guidelines on reopening: “We have the right to do whatever we want. But we wouldn’t do that.”
At his daily briefing, Trump says, “You must remember that the governors wanted to have total control over the opening of their states, but now they want to have us, the federal government, do the testing. And again, testing is local. You can’t have it both ways.” • Asked by CNN about Trump’s claims that there is adequate testing for states to begin reopening, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam replies, “That’s just delusional, to be making statements like that.”
Trump tweets, “States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing.” • At the daily briefing, a reporter asks the president if he thinks he downplayed the coronavirus by holding rallies in February and March. “Oh, I don’t know about rallies. I really don’t know about rallies,” he says. “I haven’t left the White House in months.”
Trump signs an executive order temporarily restricting some immigration to the United States. • Dr. Rick Bright says he was removed as the head of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after questioning efforts to push hydroxychloroquine. • Trump tweets, “States are safely coming back. Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS again.” Yet at his daily press briefing, Trump says he disagrees “strongly” with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow certain businesses to reopen. • Trump claims Redfield was “totally misquoted” by the Post; Redfield says he was “accurately quoted.”
At his daily briefing, Trump wonders if disinfectant can be used internally to kill the coronavirus: “Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”
Trump says he “was asking a question sarcastically” about injecting disinfectant. (The maker of Lysol issues a statement “that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.”) • The FDA issues a safety alert about serious heart rhythm problems in people with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine. • The WHO announces an $8 billion international effort to speed coronavirus testing and vaccine development. The US government says it is not participating.
At his daily briefing, Trump says, “We have enough testing to begin reopening….And the testing is not going to be a problem at all.” Also: “I think you’ll see a lot of schools open up even if it’s for a very short period of time. I think it would be a good thing.” • Pressed by a reporter, Pence says that his March 9 comments about the distribution of 4 million tests did not refer to those tests being completed. • The US death toll passes 50,000.
As the cumulative number of US cases surpasses 1 million, the death toll exceeds the number of American deaths in the Vietnam War. • Pence visits the Mayo Clinic and ignores its mask requirement so he can look health care workers “in the eye.” • Nine states have started the process of lifting their stay at home restrictions. None has met the federal recommendation that they wait for 14 consecutive days of declines before reopening. • Asked about his earlier assurances that coronavirus cases would disappear, Trump says: “Well, it will go down to zero, ultimately.” When asked what will happen if states reopen before there’s a coronavirus vaccine, he says, “I think what happens is it’s going to go away.”
Kushner tells Fox & Friends, “We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this. I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.” • Trump says that, even without a vaccine, “It’s gonna leave. It’s gonna be gone. It’s gonna be eradicated.”
Trump suggests that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan and that China was “either unable to or they chose not to” contain it. • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says that the state national guard is protecting tests bought from South Korea so the federal government does not seize them. • Armed protesters storm the Michigan capitol to demand an end to stay-at-home orders.
“I HAVE A LOT OF THINGS GOING ON”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is “significant” evidence that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory. “The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made,” he claims. • In a Fox News interview at the Lincoln Monument, Trump says, “We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people.”
Trump tweets that the task force “will continue on indefinitely.” • At an Oval Office event, the head of a nurses’ organization says that “PPE has been sporadic.” Trump snaps, “Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people.” • Trump says, “In a way, by doing all this testing we make ourselves look bad.” • Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor, is appointed postmaster general. • The US death toll passes 70,000.
One day after one of Trump’s personal valets tests positive, Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary, tests positive. Trump says, “This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great.” • A new jobs report shows that 20.5 million jobs were lost in April. Trump says, “Those jobs will all be back and they’ll be back very soon.”
After Fauci, Redfield, and the head of the FDA say they will quarantine after coming in contact with infected White House staffers, Pence’s office says he will not self-quarantine.
The White House requires everyone—except Trump—to wear face coverings in the West Wing. • Trump says again that there are enough tests: “If people want to get tested, they get tested. But for the most part they shouldn’t want to get tested.” • When CBS reporter Weijia Jiang asks why he portrays testing as “a global competition,” Trump snaps, “Don’t ask me. Why don’t you ask China that question?” • The US death toll passes 80,000.
Trump rejects Fauci’s cautious statements. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” he says, because “young people are very little affected by this.”
More than two-thirds of states have reopened or are planning to reopen. • House Democrats pass the HEROES Act, a $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, $75 billion for testing and tracing, and $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers. It stalls in the Republican-controlled Senate. • Trump announces Operation Warp Speed, an effort to accelerate vaccine development. He says, “We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future…And if we don’t, we’re going to be like so many other cases, where you had a problem come in, it’ll go away. At some point, it’ll go away.”
Eric Trump says Democrats want to shut down the country so his father can’t hold rallies. “They think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time…You watch, they’ll milk it every single day between now and November 3.”
Trump claims that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for more than a week. • He threatens to withdraw the United States from the WHO unless it makes “major substantive improvements.” • 120 days after both countries’ first-known coronavirus cases were announced, South Korea has had 262 deaths; the United States is expected to surpass 100,000 by June.
Trump tells reporters, “I tested very positively, in another sense…I tested positively toward negative, right? So, no, I tested perfectly this morning—meaning I tested negative. But that’s a way of saying it: positively toward the negative.” • Trump ignores mask requirements while visiting a Ford plant in Michigan. He claims that he wore a mask on parts of the tour but that he “didn’t want the press to get the pleasure of seeing it.” • Federal Reserve head Jerome Powell says the recent economic downturn is “without modern precedent.”
Trump spends the weekend golfing at Trump National in Virginia.
Trump asks a reporter to remove his mask at a press conference. When the reporter does not, the president says, “Oh okay, you want to be politically correct.”
“IT’S FADING AWAY”
At a Rose Garden press conference, Trump likens the economic impact of the pandemic to a hurricane: “The hurricane goes away, and within two hours, everyone is rebuilding and fixing and cleaning and cutting their grass…You’re back in business in one day, two days, three days.” • The Trump campaign announces that it will start holding campaign rallies again.
The US has had more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
The CDC holds its first press conference in three months. When asked about Trump’s plans for rallies, the deputy director for infectious disease says the agency’s guidelines “are not regulations. They are not commands.” • Harvard public health researchers find that the COVID-19 death rate for Black Americans between 35 and 44 has been nine times higher than that of white Americans of the same age. • White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow tells Fox and Friends, “There is no emergency, there is no second wave.” • Trump spends most of the weekend celebrating his birthday at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“Before the end of the year, I predict we will have a very successful vaccine, therapeutic, and cure,” Trump says at a White House event. (He also says there is a vaccine for AIDS; there isn’t.) • Pence publishes a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave.'” • Asked if he’d attend Trump’s upcoming rallies, Fauci says, “I’m in a high-risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not.”
Trump holds his first campaign rally in 110 days in Tulsa. His campaign says it had nearly 1 million sign-ups; 6,200 people attend. He refers to the virus as “kung flu” and repeats his assertion that more testing means more cases. “I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.'” • Trump is reportedly incensed when it is reported that six campaign staffers working on the event have tested positive for COVID-19.
Trump uses COVID-related economic slowdown to justify a freeze on several types of work visas. • Kudlow tells CNBC, “There is no second wave coming. It’s just hot spots.” • A reporter asks Trump, “Are you potentially putting the lives of Americans at risk by continuing to hold these indoor events?” He says, “I’m not worried about it. No, not at all.”
Appearing at a House hearing, Fauci and Giroir say they haven’t spoken with the president in more than two weeks. Redfield declines to say how long it has been. • At a speech in Phoenix, Trump again says the pandemic is “going away.” He says COVID-19 is “an odd name” and that “some people can’t explain what the 19 [means].” (It stands for 2019, the year it was discovered.)
Trump spends the weekend golfing at Trump National in Virginia.
Pence attends a packed service at the Dallas megachurch of Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of Trump’s faith advisers. In March, Jeffress delivered a sermon titled “Is the Coronavirus a Judgment From God?” • Paul Alexander, a top aide to HHS spokesperson Caputo, sends an email to Redfield accusing the CDC of “undermining the president” by issuing a report on the risks of the coronavirus to pregnant women.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem declares that she and other attendees at Trump’s July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore “won’t be social distancing.”
In a speech, Biden says, “Now it’s almost July, and it seems like our wartime president has surrendered—waved the white flag and left the battlefield.” He also says he will “follow the doc’s orders” and not hold rallies. • Fauci tells a Senate hearing, “We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticizes Fauci for not being optimistic enough. “We shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best for everyone,” Paul says.
“IT’S NOT MY FAULT”
The US has 50,000 new reported cases, a new single-day record. • Trump tells Fox Business, “I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defends his remarks, suggesting that the recent rise in cases is just “embers.” • Newsom halts some of California’s reopening plans after a surge in cases. • The EU blocks all travelers from the US.
Noting how China and Europe have handled the virus, Trump says, “We are likewise getting under control.” • Herman Cain, who had attended Trump’s Tulsa rally, tests positive for the coronavirus.
Trump golfs at Trump National in Virginia.
Asked about Trump’s “99 percent harmless” claim, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn says, “I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong.”
Tulsa County sets a record for new coronavirus cases in a single day. The director of its health department says Trump’s rally and other large events “more than likely contributed to that.” • Trump tweets: “schools must open in the fall!!!” Also: “Corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons, not for health reasons! They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”
The White House announces that it has notified the United Nations that the United States will withdraw from the WHO in one year. • At a White House event promoting school reopenings, Trump says, “We’ve really done it right, but now it’s time to be open, it’s time to stay open.” • The Associated Press reports that the Paycheck Protection Program, a relief effort meant for small businesses hit by the pandemic, loaned about $273 million to more than 100 companies owned or operated by major Trump donors. • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tests positive, one day after declaring his lungs “clean.”
A WHO report says that aerosol transmission of the coronavirus when infected people spend long periods of time in crowded indoor spaces “cannot be ruled out.” • Trump tweets: “[T]he reason we show so many Cases, compared to other countries that haven’t done nearly as well as we have, is that our testing is much bigger and better. We have tested 40,000,000 people. If we did 20,000,000 instead, Cases would be half, etc. NOT REPORTED!”
Asked about Trump’s “99 percent harmless” claim, Fauci tells the Financial Times, “I’m trying to figure out where the president got that number. What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 per cent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 per cent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case.” • According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, more than two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, his lowest rating yet.
Florida reports more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day count in the country. • On Face the Nation, Surgeon General Jerome Adams defends his earlier guidance that face masks were unnecessary: “Once upon a time we prescribed cigarettes for asthmatics, and leeches and cocaine and heroin for people as medical treatments. When we learn better we do better.” • Trump defends his golf playing on Twitter: “I play very fast, get a lot of work done on the golf course, and also get a ‘tiny’ bit of exercise. Not bad!” He also falsely claims Obama golfed more than him.
In a USA Today op-ed, Navarro states that Anthony Fauci “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on.” (The piece comes with a disclaimer that it did not meet the newspaper’s fact-checking standards.)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announces that he is suing the mayor of Atlanta over her city’s mask mandate. Under his executive order, no municipality is allowed to enforce a mask requirement stricter than the statewide guidelines. • The US breaks yet another single-day record, with more than 75,000 new coronavirus cases reported, the largest one-day increase yet.
Trump tells the Wall Street Journal, “I personally think testing is overrated, even though I created the greatest testing machine in history.” • The Washington Post reports that the White House is trying to block congressional proposals to spend billions on testing and the CDC. • Trump spends the weekend golfing at Trump National in Virginia.
In an interview with Fox News‘ Chris Wallace, Trump attempts to distance himself from his claims that the coronavirus would disappear as the weather got warmer: “They used to say the heat, the heat was good for it and really knocks it out…They got a lot wrong. The World Health [Organization] got a tremendous amount wrong.” But, Trump says, “I will be right eventually. Yeah, I said, it’s going to disappear. I’ll say it again: It’s going to disappear, and I’ll be right…I’ve been right probably more than anybody else.”
Trump tweets a photo of himself wearing a mask with the comment: “We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”
In a briefing, Trump concedes that the coronavirus is going to “get worse before it gets better” and advises Americans to wear masks. He says, “I wear it when appropriate.” He contradicts a statement by McEnany that he sometimes is tested more than once a day: “I do take probably, on average, a test every two days, three days.” • In an interview with Bob Woodward, Trump says, “The virus has nothing to do with me. It’s not my fault.”
In an interview with Barstool Sports, Trump says of Fauci, “He’d like to see [the economy] closed up for a couple of years but that’s okay, because I’m president, so I’ll say, ‘I appreciate your opinion, now someone give me another opinion, somebody please.'”
Trump golfs two days in a row at Trump National in New Jersey.
“IT IS WHAT IT IS”
Trump tweets in response to a clip of Fauci saying that the US has seen a surge in cases because it only partially closed its economy: “Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000. If we tested less, there would be less cases.” • Trump spends two days golfing at Trump National in Virginia.
Trump tweets that Birx’s comments were “pathetic.” • At a press conference, Trump is asked about Fauci’s statements that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. “I happen to take it myself,” he replies. “I don’t agree with Fauci on everything.” • Trump encourages COVID-19 survivors to donate plasma—”that beautiful ingredient that you, that got better, seem to have in your veins.” • In an interview with Axios‘ Jonathan Swan, Trump praises his administration for doing a “great” and “incredible job.” When Swan notes that 1,000 people a day are dying, Trump says, “They are dying. That’s true. It is what it is.”
Facing massive testing shortages, the governors of Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia team up to buy 3 million rapid antigen tests. • A photo of a packed high school hallway outside Atlanta goes viral, and the student who took it is suspended. (A week later, 35 students and teachers test positive. The school reverses the suspension decision.)
Asked if having a vaccine by November would help his reelection chances, Trump replies, “It wouldn’t hurt…I’m doing it, not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.”
Negotiations between Congress and the White House over a new pandemic relief package stall. • Trump tweets: “Pelosi and Schumer only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus!” • Over the next week, more than 365,000 people attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. • Trump goes golfing at Trump National in New Jersey.
Cuomo criticizes Trump’s demand that states pony up for his unemployment benefit: “That’s handing the drowning man an anchor.” • Trump introduces his new coronavirus adviser, Scott Atlas, a former Stanford neuroradiologist who has gone on Fox News to question masks and promote letting more people get COVID-19 to build “herd immunity.” “He has many great ideas,” the president says.
As some schools begin to reopen for in-person teaching, reports of COVID clusters circulate, but the Trump administration keeps no official record of them. A spreadsheet created by a Kansas teacher counts more than 700 school outbreaks nationwide. • CNN reports that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell asked Trump to look into approving oleander extract to treat the coronavirus. Lindell, a Trump donor, recently joined the board of a company that markets the “miracle” substance. Asked about it, Trump says, “We’ll look at it.”
Peter Marks, the top FDA scientist handling vaccine approval, confirms that he told other officials and pharma executives that he’d resign if the Trump administration pushed an unproven vaccine. “I could not stand by and see something that was unsafe or ineffective that was being put through,” he says.
The US death toll passes 175,000.
Trump tweets: “The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” He tags FDA Commissioner Hahn in the tweet. • Trump golfs two days in a row at Trump National in Virginia.
The FDA approves emergency authorization of convalescent plasma therapy. Making the announcement at the White House, Trump states that the treatment “has proven to reduce mortality by 35 percent.” Azar and Hahn repeat that misleading claim, an exaggeration of study results that haven’t been peer reviewed yet.
Hahn tweets that criticism of his overstating the benefits of convalescent plasma “is entirely justified” but that the decision to approve the treatment “was made entirely by FDA scientists.” • The CDC quietly revises its testing guidelines, which had recommended testing after close contact with infected people. The new guidelines say that asymptomatic people with possible exposure do not need to be tested. The president of the American Medical Association says the suggestion is “a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus.”
More than 1,500 people, most unmasked, crowd onto the White House’s South Lawn to hear Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. Attendees tell the Washington Post that they were not tested or screened beforehand. • Trump says there will be “a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”
Hahn confirms that the FDA will consider approving a vaccine before Phase 3 clinical trials are complete, saying, “This is not going to be a political decision.” • Trump retweets a QAnon follower who twisted CDC data to baselessly claim that only 6 percent of people counted as COVID deaths actually died of the disease. (Twitter deletes it for violating its policy against coronavirus misinformation.) • Trump golfs at Trump National in Virginia. • The US has had more than 6 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
“IT AFFECTS VIRTUALLY NOBODY”
Trump tells Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that most COVID-19 victims “died from other reasons.” • The White House says it will not join an international vaccine development effort so it won’t be “constrained” by the “corrupt World Health Organization.” • A panel of NIH experts finds “insufficient data” on whether plasma is a safe, effective treatment for COVID-19. • HHS says the ventilator stockpile is full again. • The cdc orders a moratorium on evictions through the end of the year.
At a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump attacks Biden for wearing a mask. “Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?” he asks. “If I was a psychiatrist, I’d say this guy has some big issues.” • Moncef Slaoui, a top adviser for Operation Warp Speed, says, “There is
a very, very low chance” that a vaccine will be tested and ready to distribute by the end of October.
September 4: Trump claims that a vaccine would “probably” be available in October. • The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation publishes a best-case scenario in which 288,000 people will have died from COVID in the US by the end of the year.
September 5: Harris criticizes Trump’s rushed vaccine development. “I would not trust Donald Trump,” she says. “I will not take his word for it.” • Trump spends the weekend golfing at Trump National in Virginia.
September 7: Trump tweets: “Starting to get very high marks in our handling of the Coronavirus (China Virus), especially when compared to other countries and areas of the world.” • A federal official familiar with Operation Warp Speed tells cnn, “I don’t know any scientist involved in this effort who thinks we will be getting shots into arms any time before Election Day.” • The New York Times reports that more than 51,000 cases have been documented at 1,000 US colleges.
September 8: Nine pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson pledge to “stand with science” and only release vaccines after they have been thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy.
September 9: Excerpts from Woodward’s interviews with Trump are released. Responding to the revelation that he knew early on that the virus was more dangerous than he publicly acknowledged, Trump says he didn’t want to “create panic”: “I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened…We want to show strength as a nation. And that’s what I’ve done.” • Speaking about the recordings, Biden says Trump “failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.” • 78 Stanford Medical School faculty members publish an open letter criticizing Atlas’ “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.” (He threatens to sue them.)
September 10: Pence doubles down on Trump’s response to the Woodward tapes, saying the president “absolutely” didn’t hamper the government’s response by downplaying the pandemic. “We gave the American people the facts,” he says. • At a White House briefing, Trump says, “I really do believe we’re rounding the corner.”
September 11: Asked about Trump’s optimistic assertion, Fauci says, “I have to disagree,” citing “disturbing” statistics showing that cases and deaths have not declined. If the numbers don’t improve, Fauci predicts, the US will have “a disadvantage right from the very beginning” this fall and winter. • Politico reports that HHS spokesperson Caputo and his deputy, Alexander, have been interfering with weekly public reports written by CDC scientists.
Trump tells Fox & Friends that a vaccine will be approved “in a matter of weeks.” • At an ABC News town hall, asked why he’d downplayed the pandemic, Trump replies, “In many ways I up-played it in terms of action.” He says again that, even without a vaccine, the coronavirus will go away. “You’ll develop herd—like a herd mentality,” he says.
Attorney General William Barr says pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” since slavery. • Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo goes on medical leave after he claims that a “resistance unit” inside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to undermine the president. • Trump claims that Democratic states are to blame for coronavirus death rates: “If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at.” • Asked about CDC Director Robert Redfield’s comments that a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available before 2021, Trump insists 100 million doses will be available by the end of the year and says the CDC head “made a mistake.” • Joe Biden asks the president to prove that vaccine development is not being politicized. “I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” he says.
The New York Times reports that HHS staff, not CDC scientists, wrote the agency’s recent recommendation that asymptomatic people with possible coronavirus exposure do not need to be tested. • Just over half of Americans surveyed say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available. • Olivia Troye, a former homeland security adviser to Pence who worked on the COVID task force, calls out Trump’s “flat-out disregard for human life” and endorses Biden. She says the president saw the coronavirus as positive because he would no longer have to shake hands with “disgusting people.”
The CDC backtracks, again recommending testing for asymptomatic people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. • For the first time, the agency posts information about the transmission of the coronavirus via droplets that can travel more than 6 feet. • Due to the coronavirus, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says it’s cutting the number of monitors it will send to observe the November election from 500 to 30.
Trump golfs at Trump National in Virginia.
The CDC removes the new information about airborne transmission from its site, saying it had been “posted in error.” • Johnson & Johnson begins Phase 3 trials of a vaccine. • Trump tells Fox and Friends, “We’ve done a phenomenal job…On public relations, I give myself a D. On the job itself, we take an A+.” • At a rally in Ohio, Trump downplays the risks of COVID-19: “Now we know it affects elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects. That’s it…Take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system, but it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”
The Washington Post reports that $1 billion in funding directed to the Pentagon to buy medical equipment was mostly spent on military gear. • The US death toll passes 200,000, which represents more Americans dying in any discrete mass casualty event besides the Civil War, World War II, and the 1918 flu pandemic. • Outside the White House, a reporter asks Trump, “Why haven’t you said anything about the US hitting 200,000 deaths from COVID?” Trump ignores the question, but when he’s asked again about the milestone, he says, “Well, I think it’s a shame. I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have two and a half million deaths.”
At a Senate hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggests New York’s cases have dropped because it has achieved herd immunity. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci replies, “If you believe that 22 percent [infection rate] is herd immunity, I believe you are alone in that.” • The CDC reports that one-fifth of people with COVID in the US in August were in their 20s. • Trump says that any attempt by the Food and Drug Administration to impose stricter guidelines on emergency authorization of a vaccine “has to be approved by the White House.” • Asked if he’ll commit to a peaceful transition of power after the election, he answers, “We’re going to have to see what happens…Get rid of the ballots… and we’ll have a very peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
Trump announces his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court at a crowded Rose Garden event where attendees do not wear masks or maintain social distance. Trump also meets indoors with Barrett and other guests.
Trump tweets that the Supreme Court striking down the Affordable Care Act “Would be a big win for the USA!” • Biden says that the effort to confirm Barrett before the election “is designed to take away the ACA and your health care in midst of a pandemic.” • Trump golfs at Trump National in Virginia.
Redfield is reported criticizing Trump’s coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas, saying “Everything he says is false.” Fauci tells CNN he worries a member of the coronavirus task force is giving Trump bad information. “I think you know who the outlier is,” he says. • The worldwide death toll passes 1 million.
Airlines brace for mass layoffs unless a new stimulus bill passes. Disney announces 28,000 layoffs. • The White House blocks Redfield’s attempt to keep cruise ships docked until next February. • Trump’s family removes their masks when they take their seats at the first presidential debate. • Biden slams Trump’s handling of the pandemic. “[Trump] said, ‘It is what it is.’ Well, it is what it is because you are who you are. That’s why it is. The president has no plan,” he says. “He knew all the way back in February how serious this crisis was.” Trump again mocks Biden for wearing a mask in public. “I think masks are okay,” he says. “I don’t wear a mask like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
“DON’T BE AFRAID OF COVID”
All New York City schools are open again. • Trump plans campaign rallies in Wisconsin, where cases are surging. • White House adviser Hope Hicks tests positive for the coronavirus. After finding out, Trump mingles maskless at a fundraiser. • At another event that evening, Trump declares, “The end of the pandemic is in sight.”
At 12:54 am, Trump tweets that he and Melania have tested positive for COVID-19. (The Wall Street Journal later reports that he already knew the results of his first positive test the previous evening.) • Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, writes that he expects “the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.” • Republican National Committee chair Rona McDaniel, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, and former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway test positive. • Azar says Trump’s family did not have to wear masks at the debate because they are “in a different situation than the rest of us.” • Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) tweets that “China gave this virus to our President.” • In the late afternoon, Conley says Trump is receiving an experimental “antiviral cocktail” called Regeneron and is “fatigued but in good spirits.” • Shortly afterwards, the White House says Trump will check into Walter Reed military hospital. • After being flown to the facility, Trump tweets, “Going welI, I think!”
Conley says Trump “had a little cough, he had the fever” and is “not on oxygen right now.” • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows says, “The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.” • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had helped Trump with debate prep, tests positive. • Trump releases a video and photographs that purport to show him working at Walter Reed. “We’re going to beat this coronavirus, or whatever you want to call it,” he says.
Asked why he hadn’t earlier disclosed that the president had been given supplemental oxygen, Conley answers, “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.” • Trump’s doctors say he is taking the steroid dexamethasone. • Trump’s personal assistant Nick Luna tests positive. • Trump stages a drive-by outside the hospital, waving to supporters from inside a black SUV.
Asked when Trump’s last negative test was, Conley says, “I don’t want to go backwards.” • On Fox News, a Trump campaign spokesperson criticizes Biden for not having Trump’s “firsthand” experience “fighting the coronavirus as an individual.” • White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tests positive. • A WHO official says 1 in 10 people worldwide may have been infected with the coronavirus. • Trump tweets that he is “[f]eeling really good” and will be leaving the hospital: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” • Trump returns to the White House and peels off his mask to pose for photographs and a video. “Now I’m better,” he says. “Maybe I’m immune.”
Trump ends negotiations with congressional Democrats over a stimulus deal, tweeting that they will resume after he wins reelection. • Trump compares the coronavirus to the flu, tweeting, “we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid.” • The White House allows the FDA to implement stricter new guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines. Trump tweets that the move is “another political hit job.” • NIH whistleblower Rick Bright resigns, saying he can not work for “an administration that puts politics over science.” • After resisting, Pence accepts having plexiglas dividers at his upcoming debate with Harris. • Trump tweets that he’s looking forward to debating Biden in nine days. • White House senior adviser Stephen Miller tests positive.
Conley says Trump has been “symptom-free for over 24 hours.” • Trump returns to the Oval Office. • In a video, Trump says “I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it.” Speaking about the antibody cocktail he received, he says “it just made me better. I call that a cure.” He claimed he would soon make hundreds of thousands of doses available for free. • Regeneron, the maker of the experimental treatment, asks the FDA for emergency approval of its product. • At the vice presidential debate, Harris says that the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
In a rambling call to the Fox Business Network, Trump says he feels “perfect” and thinks he is no longer contagious. “Remember this,” he says, “when you catch it, you get better. And then you’re immune, you know?” He also suggests that he may have gotten the coronavirus from meeting with Gold Star families. “They want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do.” • On Fox News, Trump describes Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the “lockup queen.” • Charges are filed against 13 men who allegedly plotted to kidnap Whitmer. One was alleged to have complained about her locking down gyms, calling her a “tyrant bitch.” • Regeneron stocks continue to surge following Trump’s endorsement. • The Commission on Presidential Debates says the next debate should be held virtually. After Conley says the president may resume “public engagements” on Saturday, the Trump campaign insists the next face-off be in person. • Pelosi calls for the creation of a congressional panel to review the use of the 25th Amendment.
Trump spends two hours speaking with Rush Limbaugh. He says that he took “medicine that healed me, that fixed me” and claims he is no longer on any medication. • When asked repeatedly by MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson when Trump’s last negative test was, White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern refuses to answer. • Talking about Trump’s Rose Garden event on September 26, Fauci says, “We had a superspreader event in the White House.” • The New York Times reports that in September the White House blocked a CDC plan to require masks on public and commercial transportation. • The South Carolina senatorial debate is canceled at the last minute after Sen. Lindsey Graham refuses to take a COVID-19 test in advance. • Following Trump’s refusal do to a virtual debate, the upcoming presidential debate is canceled.
Trump tweets that he is now immune and not contagious; Twitter flags the tweet for “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” • Fauci says that a Trump campaign ad took his words out of context to make it appear that he was praising the president’s handling of the pandemic.
Minnesota health officials connect two dozen coronavirus cases to September Trump events in the state. • The New York Times reports that White House officials have embraced a controversial letter from scientists arguing that the United States should focus on accomplishing herd immunity and lift lockdowns for healthy young people.
During remarks from the White House, Trump says Americans at low risk of dying from the virus should be allowed to go back to their normal lives. “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself,” he says. • Amid a growing caseload, French President Emmanuel Macron reinstates a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in parts of the country.
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