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Back in February, President Donald Trump famously said that the coronavirus would be gone by April. Later in the month, he said it would be “close to zero” in a couple of days. In March he said it would hopefully be gone by the end of April. In April he said it “gonna go, it's gonna leave.” In May he said it would go away without a vaccine and in June he repeated that unfounded claim.
Yesterday, on the first day of July, as the U.S. topped 50,000 new cases for the first time ever, he once again claimed it would “just disappear.”
"I think we're going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that, at some point, that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope," he told Fox News. Hours later, his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany doubled down on the claim.
Trump’s baseless claims are not only at odds with the explosion in coronavirus cases across the entire country, but they are increasingly at odds with members of his own party who have reimposed lockdown measures and urged people to wear masks, something Trump has repeatedly refused to do.
Wednesday marked the fifth record-setting day for new coronavirus cases in just over a week. At least five states — Arizona, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas — reported a record number of cases.
While Trump and the White House continue to maintain that the increased case numbers are simply a reflection of increased testing, the situation at hospitals across the country suggests otherwise.
In Texas, officials in multiple cities have raised the alarm about the number of people presenting with symptoms at hospitals, which are already almost at capacity. In Houston, ambulances have reported waiting an hour to offload patients, and out-of-state reinforcements have had to be brought in.
“The cases continue to increase in a manner that we just cannot sustain,” Mark Escott, interim medical director of the Austin-Travis County Health Authority, told the New York Times. “Cases are skyrocketing across the state of Texas.”
The intensive care unit at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, which is the largest medical complex in the world, reached 102% capacity on Tuesday, officials said, and COVID-19 cases accounted for more than one third of all cases in the ICU.
As the country heads into the July 4 holiday weekend, health officials have urged people to “celebrate at home,” as the combination of large gatherings, travel, and failure to follow social distancing guidelines will create the “perfect storm,” Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, told CNN. The current spike of infection was likely triggered, at least in part, by Memorial Day celebrations last month, according to epidemiologists.
At least 23 states are beginning to reimpose lockdown measures as cases spike, while others are pausing plans to reopen their economies further.
Beaches and public spaces have been shuttered for the weekend across the country, from Florida to California, which has also banned indoor dining for 70% of its population. New York City announced Wednesday that it would not let its restaurants resume indoor service next week as originally planned.
Some states are also introducing the mandatory wearing of masks in public places, and an increasing number of Republicans have urged Trump to wear a mask in public to encourage others to do the same.
Vice President Mike Pence suddenly began wearing and recommending masks this week, while Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted a photograph of her father, the former vice president, wearing a cowboy hat and pale blue surgical mask, adding the hashtag “#realmenwearmasks.”
Speaking to Fox News, Trump appeared to walk back his previous aversion to mask-wearing, saying: "I'm all for masks. If I were in a tight situation with people I would, absolutely.”
He then said he’d worn a mask previously and that he “sort of liked” the way he looked in a mask.
“It was a dark black mask,” he said, “and I thought it looked OK. I looked like the Lone Ranger.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA)(Sipa via AP Images)