coronavirus

Trump downplays risk of coronavirus rebound

Top health officials said they all expect a return of the virus in the fall

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump on Wednesday confidently downplayed the risks of a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the fall that his own health officials say is almost certain to hit.

“If it comes back though, it won’t be coming back in the form that it was, it will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain,” Trump said during a White House press briefing, adding that “it’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all.”

Top administration health officials at the same briefing warned of a return of the virus in the fall, though expressed confidence that the country would be more prepared to contain a second wave.

Trump’s comments come one day after CDC Director Robert Redfield warned in a Washington Post interview that a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall could be “even more difficult” than the current outbreak if it coincides with flu season. The CDC director's comments drew ire from the president, who asked Redfield to clarify his statement during the press briefing.

Redfield repeated his warnings that if the two viruses are circulating at the same time it could make it harder for the health care system to respond, though he downplayed the potential severity of the situation.

“It doesn't mean it's going to be more, as some people have said, or worse, it's just going to be more difficult because we have to distinguish between the two,” Redfield said, adding that what he wanted to articulate was that more Americans should get the flu vaccine.

The nation's top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, took the podium a few minutes after Trump and poured cold water on the idea that the coronavirus won't be back. "We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that because of the degree of transmissibility that it has, the global nature," he said.

But he added "we will be much, much better prepared" to contain outbreaks. "Whether or not it's going to be big or small depends on our response. Nobody can predict what is going to happen with an outbreak, but you can predict how you're going to respond to it."

Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, also discussed the need to prepare for a second wave of the outbreak in the fall, when a vaccine would still be months away.

"We are not only preparing for today and tomorrow, but we're preparing for six months from now, three months from now and making sure all of these pieces are in place," Birx said during Wednesday's briefing.

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