Trump to resume COVID-19 briefings
President Trump on Monday said he will resume giving regular coronavirus briefings this week, reviving a practice that is controversial among some aides as infections surge across the United States.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office he would deliver a briefing at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. It would mark his first time participating in a coronavirus briefing since late April.
Trump signaled the briefings would be heavily focused on the development of a vaccine and drugs to treat the virus, which has advanced significantly since he last held regular media sessions on the pandemic. He told reporters he may invite the heads of the companies involved in vaccine development to speak to the press.
“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccine, with the therapeutics, and generally speaking where we are,” Trump said. “So I think we’ll start that, probably starting tomorrow.”
The president gave daily briefings from the White House through March and April, providing updates on the administration’s response to the pandemic. But the question-and-answer sessions regularly devolved into Trump bashing governors, sparring with the press and making factually inaccurate statements that undercut the federal government’s overall messaging.
The appearances abruptly ended in late April days after Trump sparked widespread backlash by suggesting scientists study whether the injection of light or disinfectants into the body could be used as a cure for the virus.
Some advisers have pushed in recent weeks for him to bring back the briefings, however, as his poll numbers sink and the outbreak worsens. They have argued the briefings would allow Trump to show the public he is taking a leading role in responding to the virus, even as he continues to insist it will eventually “disappear.”
Vice President Pence and members of the White House coronavirus task force have given briefings a few times over the past month, coinciding with a sharp uptick in cases in many parts of the country.
The U.S. has 3.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases, and more than 140,000 Americans have died of the virus. Arizona, Texas, California and Florida have seen significant increases in infections, and Pence on Monday acknowledged the rise in cases in the Sun Belt was “serious.”
But Trump, who fixates on media coverage, hinted that he was motivated to lead the briefings once again in part because of the attention they drew in the early days of the pandemic.
“We had very successful briefings. I was doing them, and we had a lot of people watching. Record numbers watching,” he said. “In the history of cable television — television — there’s never been anything like it.”
The president enjoyed an initial boost in his poll numbers in the early weeks of the pandemic as voters rallied around him. But the bump was short-lived, and he has seen his approval numbers for his handling of COVID-19 dip over the last three months in particular.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll released Friday showed that 38 percent of respondents approve of Trump’s response to the pandemic, down from 46 percent in late May and from 51 percent in late March, when there were relatively few confirmed cases domestically.