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Trump promises 'big announcements' soon on coronavirus vaccine and therapeutics

CEO of firm working on potential vaccine sees "high probability" of success as drug moves to new testing phase

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Monday 18 May 2020 21:12 BST
Trump calls Panera's 50% revenue drop 'not bad'

Donald Trump on Monday teased – though vague – "big announcements" soon on both a coronavirus vaccine and drugs to treat those that contract the virus, calling such therapeutics "more important" because they have an "immediate" effect.

The president appeared to be reacting to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel telling investors on Monday that a potential Covid-19 vaccine is showing promise in testing. Of 45 people who were given the experimental drug, eight developed antibodies, which disable the virus and prevent it from making people sick

"We could not be happier about this interim data," she said, telling investors she sees a "high probability" it could one day prevent people from catching the highly contagious respiratory disease as the drug moves into a new phase of testing.

Mr Trump, during a meeting with restaurant industry executives said Monday has been "a very big day cure-wise and therapeutic-wise." But he did not give more specifics about the timing of any announcements; he frequently teases such revelations in "two weeks" or "a few weeks," sometimes with no explanation when he does not make an announcement for weeks or months after, if at all.

At several points during the opening minutes of the meeting, the president noted the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up, as of 3 p.m., around 940 points.

He is banking on a post-lockdown economic recovery to help propel him to a second term.

Despite more bleak economic and unemployment data released last week, Larry Kudlow, one of Mr Trump's top economic aides, said he seems "glimmers of hope" within that very economic data.

As the executives took turns discussing the situation, some pleaded with Mr Trump to give them more time to spend federal aid dollars provided under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), saying businesses having longer (24 weeks) to spend the assistance funds would help save more restaurants – and provide a longer term boost to the economy.

Mr Trump and senior White House aides have shifted to a strategy focused less on their virus response to one focused mostly on reopening the country. He has, as he was Monday, been eager to cast dismal information in a positive light.

Niren Chaudhary, CEO Panera Bread, revealed his company "lost close to 50 per cent of our revenue in the first week" of the national lockdown.

"You got down by 50 per cent or more than that?" the president asked.

"50 [per cent] to 60 per cent was the revenue decline," Mr Chaudhary replied.

Trump shot back: "That's not bad."

"Yeah," uttered the Panera CEO.

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