By ZEKE MILLER
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump sought to paint a rosier picture of the coronavirus for the nation Tuesday but conceded the pandemic is likely to get worse for a time as he revived his daily briefings with an eye to halting a campaign-season erosion of support as new cases spike across the country.
The early evening show at the White House came as the next stage of the federal government’s response to the pandemic was being crafted on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers and White House officials were opening negotiations on a trillion-dollar-or-more “phase four” rescue package.
“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” Trump said from the White House, but he also touted a reduction in deaths and progress on vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, which Trump referred to repeatedly as a the “China virus.”
He also continued his belated encouragement of Americans to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.”
“I’m getting used to the mask,” he said, pulling one out from his pocket, after months of suggesting that mask-wearing was a political statement against him.
Little more than three months out from Election Day, Trump is hoping that the podium spotlight will give him an edge against Democratic rival Joe Biden. He appeared at the White House solo, without the medical experts or government supply experts he previously relied on to explain his government’s response to the public health emergency.
The vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anybody thought possible,” Trump promised anew.
As early as next week, the first possible U.S. vaccine is set to begin final-stage testing in a study of 30,000 people to see if it really is safe and effective. A few other vaccines have begun smaller late-stage studies in other countries, and in the U.S. a series of huge studies are planned to start each month through fall in hopes of, eventually, having several vaccines to use. Already, people can start signing up to volunteer for the different studies.
Health authorities warn there’s no guarantee — it’s not unusual for vaccines to fail during this critical testing step.
But vaccine makers and health officials are hopeful that at least one vaccine could prove to work by year’s end.
Companies already are taking the unusual step of brewing hundreds of millions of doses so that mass vaccinations could begin if the Food and Drug Administration signs off.Trump also acknowledged bipartisan criticism of delays processing testing results, saying his administration was working on the problem.
“We’ll be able to get those numbers down,” Trump said, saying his administration was working to improve the availability of rapid, point-of-care tests like those used to protect him at the White House.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told NPR Tuesday that he was glad Trump has begun to promote mask-wearing and expressed optimism the president would reinforce that message Tuesday.
“If we, during those conferences, come out and have consistent, clear, noncontradictory messages, I believe it will be very helpful in getting people on the track of knowing the direction that we need to go to get this pandemic under control,” he said.
In addition to discussing medical developments, he also was expected to focus on his advocacy for schools to reopen for in-person education, following his threat to try to withhold federal funds from those that stick to remote education. And he was sure to predict a golden economic recovery on the way and go after Biden, Democratic-led cities and aggressive protesters
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Biden, for his part Tuesday, launched into scathing criticism of Trump as he outlined the latest plank of his economic recovery plan, charging that Trump “failed his most important test as an American President: the duty to care for you, for all of us.”
“He’s quit on you, he’s quit on this country,” Biden said.
There was no shortage of advice on how Trump should comport himself.