Speed Reads

High Hopes

Trump seems oddly convinced COVID-19 won't return in the fall or winter

The COVID-19 outbreak is still very much alive in the U.S. — nearly 30,000 new cases and 2,100 deaths were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 842,629 cases and 46,784 deaths, according to counts by Johns Hopkins University and the COVID-19 Tracking Project. And there are serious concerns, evidently shared by President Trump, that premature efforts to lift mitigation efforts will keep the coronavirus active for weeks or months to come.

But at Wednesday's coronavirus press briefing, Trump not only spoke of the outbreak as if it were in the past but also repeatedly insisted it may not come back. "What we've just gone through, we will not go through — you could have some embers of corona and you could have a big flu system," but the coronavirus "might not come back at all," Trump said multiple times. "And if it does come back, it's not gonna come back — and I've spoken to 10 different people — not gonna be like it was."

The public health officials at the briefing gently contradicted Trump. "We will have coronavirus in the fall, I am convinced of that," Dr. Anthony Fauci said near the end of the briefing, adding, "we will be much, much better prepared" and "whether or not it's going to be big or small depends on our response." Before that, Trump insisted that Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had been "totally misquoted" when he said the outbreak in the fall and winter could be more difficult. When Redfield took the podium two minutes later, he said he was quoted accurately by The Washington Post, though he and Trump quibbled with the article's headline.

"I didn't say that this was going to be worse," Redfield said. "I said it was going to be more difficult and potentially complicated because we'll have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time." He urged Americans to get flu vaccines.

It's not clear where Trump got the implausible impression COVID-19 would just die out before the election, though he predicted on Feb. 28 that "one day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear." Maybe he thinks that day will come in August.