Trump Is Silent on Record Virus Deaths as He Fumes Over Loss
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump is keeping largely silent about a surge in U.S. coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths over the past week, instead focusing on unfounded claims that his November loss to Joe Biden was fraudulent.
A record 2,836 Americans died from the virus on Wednesday, data compiled by Bloomberg show, and the 205,000 new cases recorded in the U.S. nearly matched the record set five days earlier. Current hospitalizations from the virus topped 100,000 for the first time.
While Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for scientific advances toward a coronavirus vaccine, he has mostly stayed out of public since his election defeat.
He spoke to the press in the Oval Office on Thursday while awarding the Medal of Freedom to football coach Lou Holtz. The room was crowded, and very few staff and guests wore masks. Trump made no mention of the pandemic but did take a moment to complain about his attorney general, William Barr, who this week said the Justice Department hadn’t seen evidence to support the president’s claims of widespread voter fraud.
Justice Department officials “haven’t looked very hard, which is a disappointment to be honest with you, because it’s massive fraud,” Trump said.
Holtz, who was born in 1937, called Trump “the greatest president in my lifetime.”
Trump and his administration have made no visible efforts to curb the growth in virus cases, and the president continues to scorn public health precautions. Along with Trump’s refusal to advocate masks, the White House plans to host numerous indoor holiday receptions and parties this month as public health authorities urge ordinary Americans to avoid or limit gatherings.
On Wednesday in a briefing for reporters, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized lockdown measures in some parts of the country.
“The president stands with you, your freedom, your ability to decide how to best protect your health. We all know how to protect ourselves from Covid-19: wash your hands, socially distance, wear a mask,” said McEnany, whose husband attended the briefing without wearing a mask. “But as one federal court put it, ‘There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution.’”
Later Wednesday, Trump released a 46-minute video in which he recycled a series of unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud in key states. He offered no new evidence to support his argument that the election results should be overturned.
The U.S. now routinely registers more than 100,000 cases a day -- a level unseen as of a month ago -- and has twice topped 200,000. More than 273,900 people have died from the virus in the U.S., which leads the world in both recorded cases and deaths.
Read more: U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Rose to 14.6%; Most on Record
Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the administration’s coronavirus task force, acknowledged at an event Thursday in Tennessee that “with cases rising across the country, we’re still going through a challenging time.”
But he heralded vaccine distribution -- which he said was “just a matter of days away” -- as a signal that the nation’s fortunes were turning.
“Help is on the way,” Pence said.
Health officials have warned, though, that a vaccine isn’t a silver bullet and that people will need to continue to take preventive steps, such as wearing masks.
“If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the on the way, you don’t stop shooting,” Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a Nov. 19 press briefing -- the last time Trump’s coronavirus task force held such an event. “You keep going until the cavalry gets here and then you might even want to continue fighting.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said Thursday that while the vaccine is a “game changer,” Americans needed to continue practicing precautions such as social distancing and only gathering outdoors. He said masks offered “an exceptional defense against COVID.”
Fauci was due to meet with members of Biden’s transition team on Thursday afternoon, a person familiar with the matter said. Biden has made the coronavirus response a pillar of his candidacy and his transition, but there’s little he can do before his inauguration beyond imploring Americans to wear masks.
McEnany was asked Wednesday why the president has made no public comments about the latest surge.
“He gave a press conference about two weeks ago, I believe, on the vaccine, which he has done at warp speed because he’s torn down bureaucratic barriers,” she said. “The work he’s done speaks for itself.”
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