Trump hails progress on vaccine in first remarks since loss

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday hailed developments in the race for a vaccine for the resurgent coronavirus as he delivered his first public remarks since his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden, even as he refuses to concede the election.

Trump spoke from the the Rose Garden as the nation sets records for confirmed cases of COVID-19, and as hospitalizations near critical levels and fatalities climb to the highest levels since the spring. He said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals. In addition, there’s no information yet as to whether the vaccine worked in vulnerable populations or only in younger, healthier study volunteers.

Public health experts worry that Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.

As states impose new restrictions in the face of rising caseloads, Trump asked all Americans to remain “vigilant.” But he ruled out a nationwide “lockdown” and appeared to acknowledge that the decision won’t be his much longer.

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he said. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration it will be I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”

Biden, for his part, has not endorsed a nationwide shutdown, but he appealed for Trump to take “urgent action” to curtail the spread of the virus. “The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now,” he said in a statement Friday.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign prediction that the U.S. was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic has met a harsh reality, with his own White House becoming the focus of yet another outbreak.

Trump’s aggressive travel despite the virus has taken its toll on his protectors as well. The U.S. Secret Service is experiencing a significant number of cases, many believed to be linked to his rallies in the closing days of the campaign, according to one official.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, said Trump is “not even at that point yet” when it comes to conceding to Biden. Trump has leveled baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, even as his own administration has said there is no evidence to support the claims. His aides suggest he is merely trying to keep his base of supporters on his side in defeat.

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