As infections from the coronavirus spike across at least 36 states, entering a likely third nationwide “peak” following deadly spring and summer surges, Donald Trump claimed that the end of the pandemic that has killed more than 215,000 Americans will “peter out” soon.
He has falsely asserted that the Covid-19 crisis will “disappear” or otherwise diminish more than three dozen times since the onset of the outbreak earlier this year.
Eight months since the declaration of the pandemic, the president – who was recently hospitalised for the disease – has resumed in-person campaigning in front of large crowds of supporters, most of whom aren’t wearing masks, against urgent guidance from medical experts and public health officials.
At a rally in North Carolina on Thursday, the president said: “The vaccine will end the pandemic, but it’s ending anyway. They go crazy when I say it. It’s going to peter out, and it’s going to end. But we’re going to help the end and we’re going to make it a lot faster with the vaccine, and with the therapeutics and, frankly, the cures.”
He claimed that 100 million doses of a vaccine – of which there are several candidates in trial phases – will be available by the end of the year.
Cases are in fact spiking. Hospitalisations are also closely trending along the rise in infections.
“After a month of warning signs, this week’s data makes it clear: the third surge of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States is underway,” according to a report on Thursday from The COVID Tracking project.
The seven-day average for new daily infections is up to 51,000. New weekly cases have not dropped below 250,000 since June.
“Though testing rose by eight per cent nationally, that’s not enough of an increase to explain the steep rise in cases," according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Health experts also have dismissed that 100 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. The efficacy and safety of those potential vaccines, severeral of which had paused their trials after patient concerns, will be determined within the coming weeks.
The president praised experimental treatments he received while hospitalised at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he was infused with a cocktail of laboratory-made antibodies from Regeneron, a treatment he falsely called a “cure” – health officials have also stressed that no drug has been proven to cure the disease.
He said he told doctors: “I don’t know what the hell you gave me but I want some more of it.”
“It was amazing,” he said, adding that his administration is “looking to get it immediately approved” for public use.
“Hopefully you don’t need it,” he said. “They call it a therapeutic. I call it a cure.”
He also diminished comments from the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force. Over the course of their fraught relationship – in which Dr Fauci has expressed caution and realistic warnings about the danger of the virus against the president’s false optimism – Mr Trump has frequently contradicted Dr Fauci, who recently warned that “herd immunity” proposals are “total nonsense".
The president’s campaign also included an out-of-context statement from Dr Fauci in a recent campaign ad.
In the clips, Dr Fauci said "I can’t imagine that anybody could be doing more,” taken from a Fox News interview in March, in which he was talking about the task force, not the president.
In an interview with The Daily Beast on Monday, Dr Fauci likened the campaign ad to harassment.
He also recently called the president’s return to rallies “very troublesome,” which the president dismissed.
They have not met for more than a month.
“He’s a nice guy,” the president on Thursday said as the crowd booed at his name.
The president continued: “He said, ‘This is not a threat, this is not a problem, don’t worry about that. … The craziest thing. He said, ’Do not wear a mask, do not wear a mask under any circumstances. Don’t, don’t, don’t. So we don’t wear a mask. Then they say, ‘oh, wear a mask.’ I never saw - you ever see any conflicts? But he’s a nice guy so we keep him around. He’s a Democrat. Everybody knows that."
At the beginning of the pandemic, health officials suggested Americans not buy up masks in the event of a shortage among healthcare and essential workers. In the following months, Dr Fauci and other health officials have joined a growing chorus urging people to wear them in public.
"I have been on the airways, on the radio, on TV, begging people to wear masks,” Dr Fauci told ABC earlier this month. “And I keep talking in the context of: wear a mask, keep physical distance, avoid crowds, wash your hands and do things more outdoors versus indoors.”
The president also referred to him as “Cuomo’s friend” – a reference to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Mr Trump said he performed “the worst job” among American governors in response to the outbreak, as “almost 40,000 people” died in the state.
He said he provided the state with a “big convention centre” and a hospital ship “meant for wars".
“They didn’t use it,” he said. “Instead they sent sick people back into nursing homes.”
The USNS Comfort and convention space converted to a medical centre were put in place to prepare for a possible spike in hospitalisations to relieve the burden on the state’s hospital system, not to be immediately filled with existing patients.
The Comfort arrived at the end of March amid a dramatic spike in cases and deaths in the state, as officials feared that the hospitals system had been stretched beyond its capacity.
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