Washington: President Donald Trump declared Monday at a White House news conference on the coronavirus outbreak that “we have prevailed,” as U.S. deaths from the disease exceeded 80,000 — a remark he later said pertained only to testing for the infection.
“Thanks to the courage of our citizens and our aggressive strategy, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved,” Trump said. “In every generation, through every challenge and hardship and danger, America has risen to the task, we have met the moment and we have prevailed.”
Trump’s news conference was intended to celebrate his administration’s long-in-gestation success at expanding testing for the coronavirus. But the president swiftly found himself on the defensive under questioning from reporters, and he abruptly ended the event after an awkward exchange over China with an Asian-American reporter.
“Americans do whatever it takes to find solutions, pioneer breakthroughs and harness the energies we need to achieve a total victory,” Trump said in his opening remarks. “Day after day, we are making tremendous strides with the dedication of our doctors and nurses, these are incredible people, brave people, these are warriors.
“With the devotion of our manufacturing workers, food suppliers and lab technicians and with the profound patriotism of the American people, we will defeat this horrible enemy, we will revive our economy and we will transition into greatness,” he said.
‘Prevailed on Testing’
Asked later about his remark that the U.S. had “prevailed,” Trump said he was only talking about testing for the virus. The U.S. didn’t exceed 100,000 coronavirus tests performed until March 19, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project, but more than 300,000 tests were conducted daily on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We’ve prevailed on testing,” Trump said. “You never prevail when you have 90,000 people, 100,000, when you have 80,000 people as of today. What I’m talking about is we have a great testing capacity now.”
There have been more than 1.3 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The growth of the outbreak has slowed, as cases increased by about 20,000 on Sunday and there were 733 deaths nationwide.
Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, said that the U.S. should shortly be on a pace to conduct 9 million tests per month.
Brad Smith, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services Innovation Center, said that the federal government will supply states with test materials through June, and described a surplus of about seven million tests, saying the majority of those were from Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. A spokesman for the company referred a reporter back to Smith.
The news conference grew testier.
Philip Rucker, a reporter for the Washington Post who has published a book on Trump’s presidency, asked Trump about tweets over the weekend in which the president promoted a conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama had committed crimes in office. At one point, Trump tweeted that Obama’s was “the most corrupt administration in office.”
Rucker twice asked Trump what crime he thinks Obama committed, specifically, and whether he believes the Department of Justice should prosecute the former president. Trump didn’t answer directly.
“You know what the crime is,” he said. “The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.”
Trump abruptly ended the news conference shortly after an exchange with Weijia Jiang, a reporter for CBS News who was born in China. Jiang noted that Trump has repeatedly boasted that the U.S. now leads the world in the number of coronavirus tests performed and asked him, “Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you if every day Americas are still losing their lives and we’re still seeing more cases?”
“They’re losing their lives everywhere in the world and maybe that’s a question you should go ask China,” Trump said. “Don’t ask me, ask China that question, okay?”
Jiang responded: “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically, that I should ask China?”
“I’m telling you,” Trump said. “I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that.”
Trump left the Rose Garden after the next reporter he called on, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, deferred to Jiang to continue her questions.-Bloomberg