U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during his first coronavirus news conference since April at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, urging the public to wear masks and socially distance. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
July 22 (UPI) -- In his first coronavirus daily briefing in three months, President Donald Trump warned that the "vicious and dangerous" COVID-19 illness in the United States will get worse before it gets better.
He told reporters in the White Houe Tuesday in his first such coronavirus briefing since April that they have learned a great deal about the virus and were developing a strategy but that the situation may further deteriorate in the United States, the worst-hit country by COVID-19.
"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," the president said. "It's what we have."
In a more controlled, somber and shorter conference absent the usual officials of his coronavirus task force than those previous, Trump told the public to wear a mask, a seemingly about-face after previously resisting to wear one himself.
"Wear a mask. Get a mask," he said. "Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They'll have an effect. And we need everything we can get."
Since the first case was diagnosed in Washington State on Jan. 21, 3.9 million people in the country have been infected with COVID-19, 142,000 of whom have since died to the virus, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
Trump gave his last such televised news conference in April amid high though seemingly stabilizing daily infection numbers but they have since drastically and exponentially climbed as states moved to reopen their economies from lockdowns put in place in March to stymie the virus' spread.
Cases have been surging, particularly in the South, and Trump said Tuesday they are deploying personnel, supplies and therapeutics to hard-hit cities.
"We keep doing the good job, and things will get better and better," he said. "We'll be putting up charts behind me showing different statistics and different rates of success and, I guess you could say, also things that we can do better on. But you'll see them. There'll be put up as we go."
The average age of the COVID-19 patient has significantly dropped since April as has the length of hospital stays for the disease, he said, adding that the rate of hospitalizations has reduced along with the mortality rate among those who have been admitted to the hospital.
However, Trump warned the positive steps taken could be quickly erased.
"These trends could change without our continued and relentless focus," he said. "And that's what we have -- we have a relentless focus. And it's been that way from the beginning. But we have learned so much."
He said he pledges in honor of those who have died to the disease that a vaccine will be developed and it will arrive at a faster rate than anticipated but until then he is urging Americans to follow health advisories.
"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," he said. "We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart."
The briefing was a stark contrast to those he gave months ago where he championed the United States' response, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House from California, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that it showed Trump had "recognized the mistakes he has made," dubbing the disease "the Trump virus."
"If he had said months ago, 'let's wear masks and let's socially distance' instead of [hosting] rallies and whatever they were, then more people would have followed his lead," she said. "So, I think a good deal of what we have suffered is clearly the Trump virus."
The conference was held as the United States recorded it sixth consecutive day of more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24-hours.
Asked during the briefing if he is responsible for the lives lost to the virus, Trump blamed China where the virus first emerged in December for not stopping it within its borders and that if his administration didn't take the measures they did -- such as preventing travelers from China and Europe from entering the country -- "we could have double, triple, quadruple" the 140,000 fatalities currently tallied.
"So, we did a lot of things right," he said. "So, it's a shame that it happened. It shouldn't have happened. China should have stopped it."