WASHINGTON – In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump was flanked in the White House briefing room by a team of public health experts in a seeming portrait of unity to confront the disease that was ravaging the globe.
But as the crisis has spread to all reaches of the country, with escalating deaths and little sense of endgame, a chasm has widened between the president and the experts. The result: daily delivery of a mixed message to the public at a moment when coherence is most needed.
Trump and his political advisers insist that the United States has no rival in its response to the pandemic. They point to the fact that the U.S. has administered more virus tests than any other nation and that the percentage of deaths among those infected is among the lowest.
“Right now, I think it’s under control,” Trump said during an interview with Axios. He added, “We have done a great job.”
But the surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths tells a different story. And it suggests that the president is increasingly out of step with the federal government’s own medical and public health experts.
The U.S. death toll, which now stands at 155,000, is expected to accelerate. The latest composite forecast from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects an average of nearly 1,000 deaths per day through Aug. 22.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, warned this week that the virus has become “extraordinarily widespread."
Trump didn't like that. He dismissed her comment as “pathetic” and charged she was capitulating to criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had earlier criticized Birx.