US President Donald Trump promised Monday to resume televised coronavirus briefings and finally spoke out in favour of mask-wearing — a marked change of tune as polls show him headed for election disaster.
With only just over 100 days until the election against Democrat Joe Biden, Trump is scrambling to respond to public anger over his troubled months-long handling of the pandemic.
Since the virus first hit the United States, Trump has insisted that it will just “disappear.”
But that sunny claim is now badly strained even among loyal supporters, as they watch COVID-19 cases surge through populous Republican-led states like Florida and Texas.
More widely, polls show public trust in Trump’s management of the crisis tanking.
Throughout, he has sought to deny the seriousness of the problem, an attitude symbolized by his mockery of masks and refusal to back up doctors’ recommendations for mass use.
Trump went some way to addressing that Monday with a tweeted picture of himself in a black mask with the presidential seal and a call for patriotism.
“Many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance,” Trump wrote. “There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favourite President!”
However, his tweet stopped well short of endorsing calls from some for a nationwide mandate to wear masks in public.
Trump, a lifelong real estate salesman and more recently reality TV performer, says the real problem is that Americans just aren’t hearing the right news.
So, likely from Tuesday he will resume the regular evening televised briefings from the White House that he gave until late April, often finding himself accused of giving confusing or misleading information.
“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public,” he told reporters. “We’re doing very well in so many different ways.”
Trump acknowledged a current “big flare-up” of cases in the country but once again distanced himself from responsibility for the problem, underlining that the disease is also ravaging “Mexico, Brazil, many countries in Europe, all over, Russia.”
“When you watch the news, the local news, and you see it, and it’s, it’s like all about the United States. They never like to talk about what’s going on in the world,” he said.
Trump said the briefings would focus on good news regarding vaccine development and therapeutics.
“We think we’re doing very well in that regard,” he said. “I think I’m going to be bringing in some of the great companies that are working very successfully.”