Donald Trump struggled again to calm a nation’s fear on Thursday when it emerged that the United States now has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world.
News that America had surpassed the China and Italy virus hotspots with 82,404 infection cases, according to a tracker operated by Johns Hopkins University, broke when the president held a press conference at the White House.
His instinctive response was to question other countries’ statistics. “It’s a tribute to the amount of testing we do,” Trump told reporters. “We’re doing huge tests, and I’m sure you can’t tell what China is testing or not testing. I think it’s a little difficult.”
While the United States has increased its testing capacity in recent days, the process has been flawed and coherent, and the country still lags behind leaders like South Korea in terms of the number of tests administered per capita.
On a gloomy day, the death toll in America surpassed 1,000 and it was revealed that 3.3 million people signed up last week for unemployment – the biggest hope in history in a week. The president has been widely condemned for not acting quickly enough, misjudging the general sentiment and trying to blame others rather than taking personal responsibility.
“That’s no mistake,” Trump said of the unemployment figure. “Certainly not in this country. No errors. We were very lucky when we made a decision not to allow people from China at a very early date. I say that because some people do not want to accept it, but this was a good decision made by our country, or the number you are talking about – we are a big country – they would be much bigger, far bigger. “
He added: “I heard it could be six million, seven million. It is 3.3 or 3.2, but there are many jobs, but I think we will come back very strong. The sooner we get back to work – you know, every day we stay out it becomes harder to get it back very quickly, and our people don’t want to stay out … I think you will see a very quick turn once we have a victory over the hidden enemy. “
Trump told the briefing that dates for reopening parts of the country were being discussed, but he did not specifically refer to Easter – April 12 – which he has been pushing for in recent days.
Critics have long accused him of lacking compassion and pointed to examples such as when he lobbed paper towels at a hurricane survivor in Puerto Rico in 2017. On Thursday, he was asked about the thousands of restaurants that go out of business, causing personal havoc for owners and staff.
“I understand the restaurant industry,” he argued, describing it as “very sensitive.” He continued: “You can serve 30 fantastic meals to one person and one family … one bad meal, 31, and they will never come back again. It’s a very tough business. “
He added: “It may not be the same restaurant, it may not be the same ownership, but they will all come back.”
Even as New York hospitals become overwhelmed, with doctors complaining about nightmare situations and cases increasing in cities like New Orleans, Trump continued to talk down the threat of the virus. “Many people have it. I only talked to two people who had it. They never went to a doctor, they didn’t report it … The people who actually die, that percentage is much lower than I actually thought. “
He added: “In my opinion, mortality is far down,” although experts have warned that this is likely to worsen in the coming weeks.
In a tone that again seemed contrary to the gravity of the situation, Trump asked a reporter from Bloomberg News, “How’s Michael, okay?” – a reference to the failed presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg – and dismissed a state governor who participated in a conference call as a “wise guy”.
He also said he will talk by phone with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later on Thursday, claiming they have a “very good relationship”. The President has repeatedly used the phrase “Chinese virus” and made them angry in some countries.
“No, it came from China,” he said, but he added, “if they feel so strongly about it, we’ll see.”
Vice President Mike Pence and Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, also tried to calm fears of the lack of fans, despite media reports to the contrary.
Birx said from New York: “Waking up this morning and watching people talking about creating DNR situations, Do-Not-Resuscitate situations for patients – there is no situation in the US right now that warrants that kind of discussion.”
There was some silver lining for Trump on Thursday when the shares gathered on Wall Street for that day after a historic $ 2-ton economic bailout won the passage in the Senate. The plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives on Friday, would distribute $ 1,200 per adult and $ 500 per child.
Joe Biden, the foremost runner-up in the Democratic presidential race, said: “The president is not responsible for the corona virus, but he bears full responsibility for the slow and uncoordinated response that has worsened both public health and the economic impact on our country. The hard reality is that at least 3 million people now have no jobs because our president did not do his job when it mattered. “