Out to regain footing, Trump shifts virus focus to economy

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President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with business leaders on coronavirus testing, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, April 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – The White House readied new guidelines Monday on coronavirus testing and reopening businesses as President Donald Trump sought to regain his footing after weeks of criticism and detours created in part by his sideshows. Trump appeared reluctant to cede the spotlight, with on-off-on plans for a press conference to capture the flurry of action.

As part of the guidelines effort, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was set to release new priorities for virus testing, including people who show no symptoms but are in high-risk settings.

The White House was unveiling what it described as a comprehensive overview of its efforts to make enough tests for COVID-19 available so states can sample at least 2.6% of their populations each month. Trump and administration medical experts outlined the plan on a call with governors Monday afternoon, before Trump announced that businesses such as CVS would expand access to tests across the country.

Monday's developments were meant to fill critical gaps in White House plans to begin “reopening” the nation, ramping up testing for the virus while shifting the president's focus toward recovery from the economic collapse caused by the outbreak.

At one point the White House announced there would be no Trump briefing, but he appeared to have other ideas. His insistence on being the star of the daily briefing show came as his greatest asset in the reelection campaign — his ability to dominate headlines with freewheeling performances at his daily briefings — was increasingly being seen as a liability. At the same time, private Republican Party polling shows Trump’s path to a second term depends on the public’s perception of how quickly the economy rebounds from the state-by-state shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the virus.

Days after he set off a firestorm by publicly musing that scientists should explore the injection of toxic disinfectants as a potential virus cure, Trump said he found little use for his daily task force briefings, where he has time and again clashed with medical experts and reporters. Trump’s aides had been trying to move the president onto more familiar and, they hope, safer, ground: Talking up the economy in more tightly controlled settings.

But hours after the White House scrubbed the nightly briefing from the official White House schedule, it reversed course.

Spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said that briefings would be held later in the week but “they might have a new look to them, a new focus to them.”