President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE declared Friday that the United States is “rounding the turn” on the novel coronavirus, projecting optimism about the progress on a vaccine and the economic recovery even as health experts warn of the potential for another wave of the disease in the fall during flu season.
At a news conference, Trump touted the jobs report released Friday showing that the U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent. He called the economic recovery “unprecedented” and described it as taking the shape of a “super V.”
“Were really rounding the turn. The vaccines are coming. The therapeutics have already come but they’re continuing to come,” Trump said of the coronavirus.
Trump implored Americans to “remain vigilant” over the upcoming Labor Day weekend, urging them to socially distance, wear masks, practice good hygiene and keep gatherings to “a group that you know.”
The president’s remarks came roughly a week after he delivered his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention from the South Lawn of the White House before a crowd of 1,500 attendees, most of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing, in a break with his own administration’s guidelines.
Trump on Friday also touted the decline in cases over the last month, after states like Florida and Arizona experienced a significant spike in cases during the month of July upon taking steps to loosen virus-related restrictions and reopen businesses.
The president told reporters he believed a vaccine would be developed by the end of the year and perhaps during the month of October, which would be before the presidential election.
Trump was pressed later during the news conference on his assertion that the country was rounding a corner, when the University of Washington model tracked by the White House shows the U.S. recording more than 410,000 deaths due to COVID-19 by January of next year.
The president insisted that his response to the virus, and particularly his decisions to restrict travel from China in February and Europe in March, saved many lives.
“If I didn’t close up — instead of the number you mentioned or whatever number it may be, about 180,000 — we would have perhaps 1.5 or 2 million deaths right now if I went in a different direction,” Trump said, referring to the current death toll, which stands at more than 180,000.
Trump also repeated his frequent assertion that the U.S. would have fewer cases if the country did not have such expansive testing capabilities.
“If we cut our testing in half, we would probably have about half the number of cases,” Trump claimed. He also suggested casually that the U.S. approach to the virus would appear better if in his count he simply “took out” New York, which was the epicenter of the pandemic when the virus first broke out in the U.S.
Trump has repeatedly minimized the threat of the virus, offering up rosy predictions of his administration’s response to the pandemic as it has come under widespread and consistent scrutiny. Polls show that a large majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of COVID-19, and the virus has become a key issue on the campaign trail ahead of the November election.
The president and other speakers at the GOP convention last week largely treated the pandemic as if it were in the rearview mirror, touting the administration’s response as a success. First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFormer aide sees Melania Trump as 'the doomed French queen': book If another 9/11 happened in a divided 2021, could national unity be achieved again? Former Trump aide Stephanie Grisham planning book: report MORE was a notable exception, offering condolences to those who have felt pain due to the crisis. For his part, President Trump came under blistering criticism for his response to the virus from Democrats at their convention the week prior.
Health officials like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield have warned of the possibility of a dire public health situation in the fall if Americans do not follow health guidelines as the pandemic coincides with flu season.