President Trump: “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”
Five weeks ago, when there were 60 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, President Donald Trump expressed little alarm.
“This is a flu,” he said. “This is like a flu.” He was still likening it to an ordinary flu as late as Friday.
By Tuesday, however, with more than 187,000 recorded cases in the United States and more Americans having been killed by the virus than by the September. 11, 2001, attacks, the president’s assessment had rather drastically changed
. “It’s not the flu,” he said. “It’s vicious.”
The grim-faced president who appeared in the White House briefing room for more than two hours Tuesday evening beside charts showing death projections of hellacious proportions was coming to grips with a reality he had long refused to accept.
At a minimum, the charts predicted that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would die — and only if the nation abide by stringent social restrictions that would choke the economy and impoverish millions.
A crisis that Trump had repeatedly asserted was “under control” and hoped would “miraculously” disappear has come to consume his presidency, presenting him with a challenge that he seems only now to be seeing more clearly.
The numbers publicly outlined Tuesday had forced him over the weekend to reverse his plan to reopen the country by Easter, but they were hardly new or surprising.
Experts have been warning of a possibility like this for weeks. But more than ever before, Trump seemed to acknowledge them.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” the president said, the starkest such effort he has made to prepare the country for the expected wave of disease and death.
“We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”
Afterward, he added: “We’re going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel. But this is going to be a very painful — very, very painful — two weeks.”\
Under the best-case scenario presented Tuesday, Trump will see more Americans die from the coronavirus in the weeks and months to come than Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon saw die in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.