Trump breaks with CDC director on potential for 'worst fall' amid pandemic, flu season

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE on Saturday said he disagreed with an assessment from the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the United States could face the “worst fall” from a public health perspective if Americans do not follow guidelines to ease the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“No,” Trump told reporters at a news conference at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club when asked whether he agreed with CDC Director Robert Redfield’s recent remarks. 

“You can’t compare it to 1917. That was incredible,” Trump continued, referring to the Spanish flu, which infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide and is believed to have killed at least 50 million.

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As of Saturday evening, the coronavirus had infected more than 21 million globally since it emerged in China late last year and had killed more than 768,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. accounts for the most cases globally, with more than 5.3 million.

Redfield in an interview Wednesday with WebMD said that if people do not follow public health guidance, the U.S. could face “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” given that a fall COVID-19 surge would coincide with flu season.

"We're going to have COVID in the fall, and we're going to have flu in the fall," Redfield said. "And either one of those by themselves can stress certain hospital systems." 

In disagreeing with Redfield, Trump noted Saturday that cases and hospitalizations in the state of Florida have declined after surging during the month of July. He also said he believes many Americans are wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus and practicing good hygiene.

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“No, I don’t agree with that,” the president said. “If you look at these numbers, they are coming down substantially.”

Saturday’s remarks were not out of character for Trump, who has repeatedly broken with his top health experts when they have offered dire projections about the virus that cut against his own predictions. 

Trump also continued to project optimism about the economic recovery throughout Saturday’s news conference, highlighting statistics at the top of the briefing showing a bounce in retail spending in July and a surge in automobile production. Trump also claimed that the economic recovery would be hampered if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden looks to expand election battleground into Trump country Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report MORE were elected in November.

“If stupid people aren’t elected next year, we’re going to have one of the greatest years that we’ve ever had,” Trump said, appearing to swipe at Biden, who is currently leading him in national and swing state polls.