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A timeline of what Trump has said on coronavirus

Trump shifts tone with grim virus warnings
Trump shifts tone with grim coronavirus warnings 03:52

President Trump says he has always taken the coronavirus very seriously from early on, pushing back at reporters who cite statements he's made in the recent past dismissing the severity of the virus.

"No, I've always viewed it as very serious," Mr. Trump said on March 16. "There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar, but some people said it wasn't."

But not so long ago, as the virus ravaged China and Europe and touched the U.S., the president compared the number of deaths from COVID-19 to deaths from the flu.

"The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year," he said on February 9, suggesting that it dwarfed the 15 cases of COVID-19 that had been reported in the U.S. at the time. By March 31, though, his tone was different. He talked about a friend who had slipped into a coma because of the disease. "This is not the flu. It is vicious," he told reporters in the White House Briefing Room. 

In February, when the federal government had confirmed just 15 cases of the virus, Mr. Trump predicted the number would soon be near "zero." Now, the White House is preparing the nation for the sobering possibility of 100,000 deaths, or maybe more.  

Here is a timeline of the various ways the president has described the virus since January, along with how many cases were reported in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins data

Jan. 20: 

Jan. 22: 1 case confirmed in U.S. 

"We do have a plan"

  • "We do have a plan and we think it's gonna be handled very well, we've already handled it very well. — President Trump to CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid in Davos, Switzerland.

Jan. 22: 1 case confirmed in U.S. 

"We have it under control"

Jan. 24: 2 cases confirmed in U.S. 

Appreciates China's "efforts and transparency" 

  • President Trump issues his first tweet on coronavirus. "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!" 

Jan. 29: 5 cases confirmed in U.S. 

U.S. experts "are on top of situation 24/7"

  • "Just received a briefing on the Coronavirus in China from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China. We will continue to monitor the ongoing developments. We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it 24/7!" the president tweeted

Jan. 30: 7 cases confirmed in U.S. 

U.S. has a "very little problem" with five cases

  • On this day, the World Health Organization declares coronavirus a public-health emergency. "We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we're working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it's going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you," Mr. Trump said at a speech at a Michigan manufacturing plant.   

Jan. 31: 8 cases confirmed in U.S. 

President Trump bars many travelers from China, and U.S. declares a public health emergency. 

Feb. 5: 11 cases confirmed in U.S. 

President Trump is acquitted after impeachment trial in the Senate.

Feb. 7: 11 confirmed cases in U.S. 

With warmer weather "virus hopefully becomes weaker with warmer weather, and then gone"

  • "Just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus. He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but......he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!" the president tweeted

Feb. 10: 12 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Xi "feels...the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus"

  • "I had a long talk with President Xi — for the people in this room — two nights ago, and he feels very confident.  He feels very confident. And he feels that, again, as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus," the president said during a White House meeting with governors.

Feb. 23: 51 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Situation is "very much under control"

Feb. 24: 51 confirmed cases in U.S. 

"The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA" 

  • "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!" the president tweeted

Feb. 25: 57 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" 

  • "You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are - in all cases, I have not heard anything other," the president said during a press conference on his trip to India

Feb. 26: 58 confirmed cases in U.S. 

The 15 cases in U.S. "within a couple days is going to be down close to zero"

  • "I want you to understand something that shocked me when I saw it that — and I spoke with Dr. Fauci on this, and I was really amazed, and I think most people are amazed to hear it: The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me. And, so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people and their recovery, one is — one is pretty sick but hopefully will recover, but the others are in great shape. But think of that: 25,000 to 69,000. ... "And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done," the president said during a Coronavirus Task Force Press briefing at the White House.

Feb. 27: 60 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Virus will "disappear" one day "like a miracle"

Feb. 29: 74 confirmed cases in U.S. 

"Everything is really under control"

  • "And we've done a great job. And I've gotten to know these professionals. They're incredible. And everything is under control. I mean, they're very, very cool. They've done it, and they've done it well. Everything is really under control." —  Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland. One attendee from that event later tested positive, and lawmakers who attended went under self-quarantine. 

Feb. 29: 74 confirmed cases in U.S. 

First coronavirus death in the U.S. on this day 

  • "We've taken the most aggressive actions to confront the coronavirus. They are the most aggressive taken by any country and we're the number one travel destination anywhere in the world, yet we have far fewer cases of the disease then even countries with much less travel or a much smaller population." —White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing

March 4: 217 confirmed cases in U.S. 

It's "very safe to fly" in "large portions of the world" 

  • "Yeah, I think where these people are flying, it's safe to fly. And large portions of the world are very safe to fly. So we don't want to say anything other than that. And we have closed down certain sections of the world, frankly, and they've sort of automatically closed them also. They'll understand that and they understand it better, perhaps, than anybody. Yes, it's safe." — White House meeting with airline executives.

March 6: 402 confirmed cases in U.S. 

"Anybody that wants a test can get a test"

  • "Anybody that wants a test can get a test. ... The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?" —  CDC headquarters in Atlanta   

March 9: 959 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Compares number of deaths caused by coronavirus and flu 

  • "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!" the president tweeted

March 10: 1,300 confirmed cases in U.S. 

"Just stay calm. It will go away"

  • "Well, this was unexpected. This was something that came out of China, and it hit us and many other countries. You look at the numbers; I see the numbers with just by watching you folks. I see it — it's over 100 different countries. And it hit the world. And we're prepared, and we're doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away," the president said on Capitol Hill after meeting with Republican senators

March 11: 1,700 confirmed cases in U.S.

"We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days"

  • "To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground." — Televised Oval Office address to the nation

March 12: 2,200 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Highlights lower number of deaths in U.S.

  • "I mean, think of it: The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point. Other countries that are smaller countries have many, many deaths. Thirty-two is a lot. Thirty-two is too many. But when you look at the kind of numbers that you're seeing coming out of other countries, it's pretty amazing when you think of it. So, that's it." — Trump meeting with Irish prime minister at White House.

March 13: 2,700 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Declares national emergency

  • "We have 40 people right now. Forty. Compare that with other countries that have many, many times that amount. And one of the reasons we have 40 and others have — and, again, that number is going up, just so you understand. And a number of cases, which are very small, relatively speaking — it's going up. But we've done a great job because we acted quickly. We acted early. And there's nothing we could have done that was better than closing our borders to highly infected areas."  — Rose Garden press conference.

March 16: 6,400 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Announces new social distancing guidelines, says outbreak could last until July or August

  • "I've spoken actually with my son. He says, 'How bad is this?' It's bad. It's bad. But we're going to — we're going to be, hopefully, a best case, not a worst case. And that's what we're working for." 
  • "They think August, it could be July," he said at a press briefing Monday, referring to members of the White House task force. "Could be longer than that."— White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing

March 24: 65,800 confirmed cases in U.S.  

Wants country and economy "raring to go by Easter" 

  • "I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," the president said of easing social distancing guidelines in parts of the country." 
  • "I think Easter Sunday — you'll have packed churches all over our country." — Fox News town hall.

March 24: 65,800 confirmed cases in U.S.  

"We begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel" 

March 29: 161,800 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Extends Easter target to April 30

  • "The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end. Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30th to slow the spread. ... We can expect that, by June 1st, we will be well on our way to recovery. We think, by June 1st, a lot of great things will be happening." — White House Rose Garden press conference.

March 31: 213,400 confirmed cases in U.S.

"This could be a hell of a bad two weeks." Raises possibility of 100,000 deaths in U.S.

  • "This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is gonna be a very bad two — or maybe even three — weeks," the president said. "This is going to be three weeks like we haven't seen before." — White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.

March 31: 213,400 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Trump says COVID-19 is "not the flu" 

  • "But it's not the flu. It's vicious. When you send a friend to the hospital and you call up to find out, how is he doing, it happened to me. Where he goes to the hospital, he says goodbye, sort of a tough guy, little older, little heavier than he'd like to be, frankly. And you call up the next day, 'how's he doing?' And he's in a coma? This is not the flu. — White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.

April 3: 273,880 confirmed cases in U.S. 

Trump stands by past comments that virus will "go away"

  • "I said it was going away - and it is going away." — White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.
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