Dow Jones Industrial Average (D.J.I.A.): 29,196
U.S. Infections: One
U.S. Deaths: Zero
International Infections: 282
International Deaths: Six
A day after President Trump declared the U.S. to be “NUMBER ONE in the Universe, by FAR!!”—all too presciently, as it would turn out—the C.D.C. announces that the first case of the coronavirus in the United States has been identified in Washington State.
While at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Trump makes his first public comments about the coronavirus during a CNBC interview.
HOST: Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?
TRUMP: No. Not at all. And—we’re—we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s—going to be just fine.
In Trump’s first tweet about the coronavirus, he praises the Chinese for their containment work, then quickly gets to the matter at hand: unveiling the new logo of the United States Space Force!
The White House announces a travel ban on non-citizens who have recently been to China.
In his 6,200-word State of the Union address, the president devotes 39 of those words to the coronavirus. Here are 14 of them:
My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.
“A Beautiful Date to Look Forward To”
U.S. Infections: 11
U.S. Deaths: Zero
International Infections: 40,554
International Deaths: 910
At a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump says:
Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.
And in an interview before the rally:
You know in April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather. And that’s a beautiful date to look forward to.
Trump tweets, “Highest Stock Market In History, By Far!” The actual peak was a week earlier, on February 12 (29,551), and the morning after his tweet the market began to tumble. A month later, the Dow would hit its two-year low of 18,591, a milestone that goes unrecorded on the president’s Twitter feed.
Trump tweets, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” and, undaunted by a five-day free fall in share prices, “Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
A worried nation can breathe easy: at the first pandemic-focused press conference, Trump appoints Vice President Pence to direct the coronavirus task force.
He also offers some welcome clarity on whether the virus will spread:
Well, I don’t think it’s inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level.
And adds a dollop of perspective:
The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me.
Trump offers an alternative theory for the stock-market drop:
I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that [debate] stage making fools out of themselves.
And even gives a start date for the next bull market:
And I think after I win the election, I think the stock market is going to boom like it’s never boomed before—just like it did, by the way, after I won the last election. The stock market, the day after, went up like a rocket ship.
But back to “what we’re talking about”:
Wash your hands, stay clean.... I mean, view this the same as the flu. When somebody sneezes—I mean, I try and bail out as much as possible when they’re sneezing.
U.S. Infections: 15
U.S. Deaths: 3
International Infections: 82,294
International Deaths: 2,804
At a meeting with African-American leaders at the White House, Trump says:
But we have done an incredible job. We’re going to continue. It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.
If only we had built a wall! At a rally in South Carolina, Trump blames the growing spread of the virus on Democrats and immigrants:
The Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now you see it with the coronavirus, you see it.
And dusts off a favorite word:
They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning, they lost. It’s all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax.
The C.D.C. officially reports the first U.S. coronavirus death. Trump, speaking at a CPAC convention in Maryland, marks the grim occasion:
So not only did we do it, but I did it very early. And that decision has been now given very good grades, like an A-plus-plus-plus.
“Just My Hunch”
U.S. Infections: 78
U.S. Deaths: 18
International Infections: 93,091
International Deaths: 3,198
On Fox News, Trump is typically Panglossian:
Now, and this is just my hunch, and—but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this. Because a lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly.
During a Fox News town hall, Trump displays Churchillian fortitude in the War on Hand-Shaking:
You know, you’re hearing a lot of stuff about “Try not to shake hands.” It hasn’t stopped me at all.
“They Have the Tests. And the Tests Are Beautiful”
U.S. Infections: 164
U.S. Deaths: 28
International Infections: 98,192
International Deaths: 3,380
The president visits the C.D.C.
REPORTER: You were shaking a lot of hands today, taking a lot of posed pictures. Are you protecting yourself at all?
TRUMP: Not at all. No, not at all. Not at all.
REPORTER: Have you considered not having campaign rallies?
TRUMP: No, I haven’t.... Well, I’ll tell you what: I haven’t had any problems filling them. I mean, we just had one in North Carolina, South Carolina—all over the place. And we have tens of thousands of people standing outside the arena.
Also at the C.D.C., Trump goes full QVC:
Anybody right now and yesterday—anybody that needs a test gets a test. We—they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.
But wait—there’s more!
And the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect, right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.
So, how many Americans will be infected?
Well, we’re prepared for anything. We’re prepared. We are, really, very highly prepared for anything....
And, by the way, N.I.H., what they’ve done—I spent time over there—and I like this stuff. You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at M.I.T. He taught at M.I.T. for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super genius. Dr. John Trump. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, “How do you know so much about this?” Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.
“I Don’t Take Responsibility at All”
U.S. Infections: 937
U.S. Deaths: 50
International Infections: 118,319
International Deaths: 4,292
The W.H.O. declares a global pandemic. Trump announces a travel ban, advises Americans to wash their hands, points a few stubby fingers of blame, and touts America’s “unprecedented” response to the virus.
Trump declares a national emergency during an address in the Rose Garden. He also touches the microphone, shakes hands, and pats a variety of backs at least 31 times during the briefing.
REPORTER: Thank you so much, Mr. President. Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, “a failing.” Do you take responsibility for that?…
TRUMP: Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a—a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.
@realDonaldTrump: SOCIAL DISTANCING!
“I’ve Always Known This Is a—This Is a Real—This Is a Pandemic”
U.S. Infections: 3,471
U.S. Deaths: 113
International Infections: 167,515
International Deaths: 6,606
REPORTER: Does the buck stop with you? And on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your response to this crisis?
TRUMP: I’d rate it a 10.
During the day’s task-force briefing:
One of the most important things, when you write the history of this, was the fact that we closed it down to China and Europe, but in particular, China. We closed it down to China, the source, very, very early. Very, very early. Far earlier than even the great professionals wanted to do....
I’ve always known this is a—this is a real—this is a pandemic. I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.
“I Want to Be Accurate”
U.S. Infections: 7,023
U.S. Deaths: 173
International Infections: 191,127
International Deaths: 7,807
During his now regular White House coronavirus briefing, Trump declares himself a wartime president.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. I would like to begin by announcing some important developments in our war against the Chinese virus.
REPORTER: Why do you keep calling this the “Chinese virus”?
TRUMP: Because it comes from China.
REPORTER: People say it’s racist.
TRUMP: It’s not racist at all. No. Not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.
REPORTER: And no concerns about Chinese Americans in this country?
During the day’s briefing, Trump responds in a very stable manner to a softball question from NBC’s Peter Alexander.
ALEXANDER: What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?
TRUMP: I say that you’re a terrible reporter.
“Raring to Go by Easter”
U.S. Infections: 24,583
U.S. Deaths: 525
International Infections: 292,142
International Deaths: 12,783
@realDonaldTrump: WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
TRUMP: America will again, and soon, be open for business—very soon—a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner.
During a virtual town hall with Fox News:
I’d love to have it open by Easter, O.K.? I would love to have it open by Easter. I will—I will tell you that right now.... I would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go by Easter.
Later that day in an interview on Fox News, Trump said he wanted to see “packed churches” on Easter.
U.S. Infections: 54,453
U.S. Deaths: 1,156
International Infections: 413,467
International Deaths: 18,433
@realDonaldTrump: The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success. The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!
Later, at the day’s coronavirus briefing:
I think there are certain people that would like it not to open so quickly. I think there are certain people that would like it to do financially poorly because they think that would be very good as far as defeating me at the polls.
REPORTER: And everybody who needs one will be able to get a ventilator?
TRUMP: Look—look, don’t be a cutie-pie. O.K.?
During the day’s briefing, Trump brings up his suspicion that a certain populous Northeastern state is hoarding equipment:
How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000? 10 to 20,000 masks to 300,000? … You ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?
So they have to look at that in New York.... I don’t think it’s hoarding; I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.
“I Knew Everything. I Knew It Could Be Horrible and I Knew It Could Be Maybe Good”
U.S. Infections: 163,539
U.S. Deaths: 4,532
International Infections: 750,890
International Deaths: 36,405
In what begins as a serious, sobering briefing, Trump and the task force present a White House estimate of 100,000–200,000 American deaths. Or, as the president put it, “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks.”
Unfortunately, the briefing continues.
REPORTER: Did [impeachment] divert your attention or your team’s attention or the vice president’s attention?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t like to think I did. I think I handled it very well, but I guess it probably did. I mean, I got impeached. I think, you know, I certainly devoted a little time to thinking about it, right?
Then came this curiously boastful admission:
I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached.
O.K.? And I think that’s a great tribute to something; maybe it’s a tribute to me. But I don’t think I would have acted any differently or I don’t think I would have acted any faster.
As for that ingrate Cuomo …
Well, he shouldn’t be complaining because we gave him a lot of ventilators.... We gave him a lot of ventilators. And you know what? He has a lot of ventilators. The problem is, with some people, no matter what you give, it’s never enough.
We’re getting very high marks. But I’m not doing this for marks; I’m doing this to save lives.
Trump is pressed about whether he lulled Americans into a false sense of security by saying early on that the virus would “miraculously” go away:
TRUMP: Jim, it’s going away. It’s going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month.
REPORTER: But hasn’t your thinking on this evolved?
TRUMP: Oh, it is going—Jim, it is going away.... I read an article today, which was very interesting. They say, “We wish President Trump would give more bad news. Give bad news.” I’m not about bad news. I want to give people hope. I want to give people a feeling that we all have a chance.
You know, I’m a cheerleader for the country.
REPORTER: So you knew it was going to be this severe when you were saying, “This is under control,” and—
TRUMP: I thought it could be. I knew everything. I knew it could be horrible and I knew it could be maybe good.
On this day, 6.6 million people are unemployed. By April 23, 26.5 million will have filed for unemployment. Combined with the 7.1 million previously unemployed, that makes more than 33 million—20.6 percent of the nation’s workforce, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression.
TRUMP: It’s not like we have a massive recession.
REPORTER: Sir, the First Lady has been tweeting and encouraging people to wear face masks. Has she been … encouraging you to wear one?
TRUMP: She feels that—I—I would wear one. I mean, I just—generally, I’m not in a—like, I should—would you like me to wear one right now and answer your question? That would be a little awkward, I guess. But, no, I mean—again, I would wear one if it was—if I thought it was important.
April 12 (Easter)
Anecdotal evidence suggests that most churches are not “packed.”
“Thank You … Mr. President”
U.S. Infections: 554,849
U.S. Deaths: 26,537
International Infections: 1,773,084
International Deaths: 111,652
At the task-force briefing, Trump plays a video that purports to a) show the media downplaying the virus, and b) demonstrate Trump’s “decisive action” regardless. It ends with a montage of governors thanking him. The president stands to the side watching, smirking, nodding meaningfully to reporters, and gesturing at his favorite parts.
@realDonaldTrump: LIBERATE MINNESOTA!
@realDonaldTrump: LIBERATE MICHIGAN!
@realDonaldTrump: LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!
Science show-and-tell. At a briefing, the president pulls a swab and a Q-tip from his pocket:
“One’s a swab. One’s a Q-tip. It’s actually different.”
Trump temporarily halts issuance of new green cards.
In his opening statements of the day’s briefing, Trump claims that C.D.C. director Robert Redfield was “totally misquoted” when he told The Washington Post, “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.” Trump asks Redfield to take the podium to clarify, then looms nearby, ready to assist with the clarification:
REPORTER: You were accurately quoted, correct?
REDFIELD: I’m accurately quoted in The Washington Post as “difficult.” But the headline was inappropriate.
TRUMP: What does the headline say? What does the headline say? Go ahead, read the headline.
REPORTER: The headline says, “CDC Director Warns Second Wave of Coronavirus Is Likely to Be Even More Devastating.” And isn’t that correct? Because—
TRUMP: That’s not what he says.
PENCE: It’s not what he said.
TRUMP: It’s not what he said.
Rick Bright, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the entity in charge of developing the United States’ coronavirus vaccine, is fired.
REPORTER: He says he has been pushed out of his job because he raised questions about hydroxychloroquine and some of your directives on that. Was he pushed out of that job?
TRUMP: I—I’ve never heard of him. You just mentioned the name. I never heard of him. When did this happen?
REPORTER: This happened today.
TRUMP: Well, I’ve never heard of him.
“I’m Not a Doctor. But I’m Like a Person That Has a Good You Know What”
U.S. Infections: 828,441
U.S. Deaths: 49,316
International Infections: 2,544,792
International Deaths: 175,694
TRUMP: So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous—whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light—and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that, too. It sounds interesting.
And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds—it sounds interesting to me.
Later, Trump is asked whether it is safe to be postulating that light and heat kill the virus, as it may lead people outdoors.
TRUMP: Here we go. The new—the new headline is: Trump Asks People to Go Outside. That’s Dangerous. Here we go. Same old group. You ready? I hope people enjoy the sun. And if it has an impact, that’s great. I’m just hearing this—not really for the first time. I mean, there’s been a rumor that—you know, a very nice rumor—that you go outside in the sun, or you have heat and it does have an effect on other viruses....
I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. You know—but if you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Again, I say, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor. But I’m like a person that has a good you know what [gestures wildly around his head].
REPORTER: But, sir, you’re the president.
TRUMP: Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?
Deborah BIRX: Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly fever—is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But not as—I’ve not seen heat or—
TRUMP (cutting Birx off): I think it’s a great thing to look at. I mean, you know. O.K.?
REPORTER: But respectfully, sir, you’re the president. And people tuning in to these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They’re not looking for a rumor.
TRUMP: Hey, Phil. I’m the president and you’re fake news.
J.K.! At the signing of a coronavirus stimulus bill in the Oval Office:
REPORTER: Mr. President, can you clarify your comments about injections of disinfectant? They’re quite provocative.
TRUMP: No, I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen.... But I was asking a sarcastic—and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands, and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.
Over the weekend, the Republican governor of Maryland reports “hundreds” of hotline calls from people asking about injecting disinfectant. Later, the president will say he “can’t imagine why” that would have happened.
Trump tweets that the briefings are: “Not worth the time & effort!”
@realDonaldTrump: I never said the pandemic was a Hoax! Who would say such a thing?
(Give up? For the answer, see February 28.)
Crisis over! On May 5, the president, touring maskless at a mask factory while “Live and Let Die” blared, announced plans to disband the coronavirus task force (and then dis-disbanded it, at least for now). Two days earlier, at the Lincoln Memorial, comparisons were drawn between Trump and Honest Abe, by Trump anyway: “Look, I am greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen. The closest would be that gentleman right up there. They always said Lincoln—nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.”
In other words, back to normal.
According to the somewhat different pandemic time line on Trump’s 2020 campaign Web site, the president is “taking concrete actions,” “taking decisive action,” and “taking critical steps.” In short: a man on the take!
At her first press conference, the new White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, announced in seeming earnest, “I will never lie to you.” On Fox & Friends, Jared Kushner said he hoped that by July “the country’s really rocking again.” (Who talks like that? Jared Kushner, apparently.) And in a time-saving decision, the White House made it clear that the country could start reopening without any bothersome C.D.C. guidelines.
All of this is reassuring, as is the fact that daily coronavirus-related deaths were expected to no more than double in the United States during the coming months. And besides, as the administration has reportedly come to feel—contrary to expert opinion, naturally—those numbers are exaggerated anyway. Epidemiology, schmepidemiology.
Donald Trump has put the coronavirus catastrophe behind him, and returned the nation’s focus back where it belongs: on him, and on his re-election. Pandemics are for losers.
Donald Trump is the president of the United States
Ash Carter is the Articles Editor for AIR MAIL
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail
Nathan King is a Deputy Editor for AIR MAIL
Alex Oliveira is an Assistant Editor for Air Mail