President Donald Trump talked privately about the severity of the coronavirus threat even as he was telling the nation the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting the government had it totally under control, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis. His comments were recorded by Woodward, and audio has been released.
For the White House, the book serves as an unwelcome return to a focus on Trump’s handling of the pandemic just as he is trying to project that the virus is under control and as he is eager to see a return to normal activity leading up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Trump told Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said. “I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic."
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the book shows Trump “lied to the American people." He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.”
In other developments:
- Teachers in at least three states have died after bouts with the coronavirus since the dawn of the new school year, and a teachers' union leader worries that the return to in-person classes will have a deadly impact across the U.S. if proper precautions aren't taken.
- Top Republican senators made pessimistic predictions Wednesday about securing a bipartisan coronavirus relief package before the November election, signaling instead they will just try to pass legislation that would avoid a federal shutdown as lawmakers head home to campaign.
- The suspension of a huge COVID-19 vaccine study over an illness in a single participant shows there will be “no compromises” on safety in the race to develop the shot, the chief of the National Institutes of Health told Congress on Wednesday.
- President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are taking diametrically opposite approaches to campaigning during a pandemic. Biden emphasizes guidelines supported by local health officials while Trump rails against restrictions that he argues, without evidence, are politically motivated.
- IOC president Thomas Bach says progress with vaccines and rapid testing for COVID-19 will not be the complete answer for staging the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
- Atlantic Coast Conference schools and other colleges across the country poised to kickoff football seasons face multiple challenges in trying to replicate the bubbles that have allowed the NBA and NHL to resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- The British government has backed a series of measures it hopes will stem a worrying increase in new coronavirus cases, particularly among young adults, including a legally enforced ban on any social gatherings of more than six people.
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