Trump virus briefings resume, with newfound respect for masks

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BY NIKHILA NATARAJAN
New York, July 22 (IANS)
US President Donald Trump returned after a three month break to his freewheeling coronavirus briefings from the White House press room, announced his newfound comfort level with face coverings and warned Americans that the “nasty, horrible” China virus is going to get worse before it gets better — all this on a day when the US death toll crossed the 141,000 mark.
The US leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths from the COVID-19 virus. More than 3.8 million Americans have been sickened since January this year.
“Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact,” Trump said, pulling one out of his pocket after months of suggesting that mask wearing is optional and gets in the way of Americans’ freedoms.
With barely three months to go before Election Day, Trump headlined his 30 minute briefing with the progress on vaccine and therapeutics development and what he described as America’s relatively better case fatality ratio (CFR) in recent weeks.
With the usual gaggle of public health experts missing from the briefing, most notably Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump doubled up as data chief, rattling off data from charts that played on loop in the backdrop.
America’s CFR stands at 3.7 per cent compared with at least 10 other countries at higher levels. Trump said America has completed nearly “50 million tests”.
Public health experts contend that Trump’s framing of the challenge is faulty. The number of tests per confirmed case matters more than the raw number of tests, they say. The US lags badly in this metric that matters, Dr. Vin Gupta, a global public health expert, said on US news television.
Trump pointed to a “concerning rise” in cases among 18-35 year olds, many of them asymptomatic, touted a four fold increase in testing capacity, and claimed that children who get sick from the virus bounce back so quickly that they “never even know they were sick”.
“The vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anybody thought possible,” Trump promised Americans.
By next week, the first possible US vaccine candidate is launching into final-stage testing in a study of 30,000 people to watch for efficacy signals.
Trump, during Tuesday’s briefing, addressed widespread criticism of the testing landscape in the US. Trump said the US will soon have rapid, point-of-care tests, like those used in the White House, available on a wider scale.A
In a clear departure from his combative “the virus will disappear” stance since the pandemic began raging in the US, Trump today warned young people against crowding bars and indoor spaces and cast mask wearing as an act of patriotism.

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