Pandemic will ‘get worse before it gets better,’ Trump says as he urges Americans to wear masks

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press during a COVID-19 coronavirus update, Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room.
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press during a COVID-19 coronavirus update, Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. | White House/ Shealah Craighead

Acknowledging a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases across the South, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. will likely “get worse before it gets better.”

“Some areas of our country are doing very well; others are doing less well. It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better — something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is.  It’s the way — it’s what we have,” Trump said during his first official briefing on the pandemic since April.

With more than 3.8 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 140,000 deaths reported by the CDC in the U.S. as of Wednesday morning, Trump also called the virus “a vicious and dangerous illness” and urged the wearing of masks as an effective tool to limit its spread.

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“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask.  Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.  They’ll have an effect. And we need everything we can get,” he said.

He noted that with improved and widespread testing, officials have been able to identify more positive cases and his administration is now working hard with states around the country to bring the situation under control.

“The governors are working very, very hard, and we are supporting them 100 percent. Everything they need, they get. And we are taking good care. We have tremendous supplies and a great supply chain, whether it’s ventilators or gowns or just about anything they need,” Trump noted.

The president said that a growing understanding of how to treat the virus has helped in the reduction of the mortality rate and explained that most of the people who have died have been people with underlying conditions or older adults.

“The median age of those who succumb to the China virus is 78 years old. Roughly half of all deaths have been individuals in nursing homes or in long-term care. In one study, 90 percent of those hospitalized had underlying medical conditions, whether it’s heart or diabetes, but usually it’s some kind of a condition,” Trump explained. “Young adults may often have mild or even no symptoms. They won’t even know they’re sick. They won’t have any idea that they have a virus. They won’t have any idea at all.”

And as state officials across the country continue an ongoing debate about whether children should return to in-person classes in the fall, the president also pointed how small the threat of the virus is to children.

“Data shows children have the lowest fatality risk; 99.96% of all virus fatalities are in adults. Think of that. So that’s much, much, much less than 1 percent for children, young people,” Trump said.

“Because we’ve achieved a nearly fourfold increase in testing capacity in two months, we’re successfully identifying more asymptomatic and mild cases. Some cases so mild that you really don’t even treat them. Some cases with children, where they don’t even know that they’re ill. And I guess they’re not very ill because they recover almost immediately.”

In discussing the value of the initial shutdown as a response to the virus, President Trump also explained how “we’ve saved, potentially, millions of lives” but hinted that isn’t a response he would likely pursue with growing cases again, now that experts have a better understanding of the virus. Social distancing, the wearing of masks and other hygiene regimens, he said, are a now a more practical response.

“Nobody is going to maybe ever fully understand it, but we’ll end up with a cure, we’ll end up with therapeutics, we’ll end up with a vaccine very soon — all three,” he said.

“We’re instead asking Americans to use masks, socially distance, and employ vigorous hygiene — wash your hands every chance you get — while sheltering high-risk populations. We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart,” he said.

Trump further noted that two possible vaccines for the virus will enter the final stage of clinical trials later this month and four others are expected to enter final trials only weeks later.

“This was achieved in record time. It used to be years before you were in a position like we are right now,” he said. “… We’re mass producing all of the top candidates so that the first approved vaccine will be available immediately.”

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