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Trump, Pence and Reassessing Coronavirus

In a little more than a month, President Donald Trump’s language about the coronavirus has shifted, from talk of 15 cases that “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero” to warning of as many as 2.2 million deaths in the country if no social distancing efforts were undertaken. 

At times, the president has acknowledged he changed his assessment of the pandemic, but in other cases, he and Vice President Mike Pence have tried to revise history, ignoring or recasting his previous statements.

Here, we outline Trump’s evolving language on the deadliness of the virus, its spread in the U.S. and how it compares with the seasonal flu. We also provide a timeline of the president’s comments below.

The Threat of the Coronavirus

In an interview on CNN on April 1, Pence said, “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.”

That may be what the vice president believes. But he is wrong. The truth is that Trump has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus.

From Jan. 24 to March 10, as we reported before, Trump made a series of statements minimizing the danger posed to the United States. (See our timeline below.)

On March 16, Trump reversed course, imposing social distancing guidelines for 15 days. The following day, he said at a press conference: “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” 

But he soon sounded a different tone again.

As recently as March 24 at a Fox News virtual town hall, Trump likened the disease’s impact to that of the flu or automobile accidents. At the time the president was considering, for economic reasons, whether to relax the social distancing guidelines he had imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

I brought some numbers here, we lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off, I mean every year. Now

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