President Donald Trump revived his daily news briefings from the White House on Tuesday, and as new cases rise across the country, he said the pandemic is likely to get worse for a time.
The news briefing came as the next stage of the federal government’s response to the pandemic was being crafted on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers and White House officials were opening negotiations on a trillion-dollar-or-more “phase four” rescue package.
“It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better,” Trump said from the White House, but he also touted a reduction in deaths and progress on vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. He continued his encouragement of Americans to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact.”
As early as next week, the first possible U.S. vaccine is set to begin final-stage testing in a study of 30,000 people to see if it really is safe and effective. A few other vaccines have begun smaller late-stage studies in other countries, and in the U.S. a series of huge studies are planned to start each month through fall in hopes of, eventually, having several vaccines to use. Already, people can start signing up to volunteer for the different studies.
“The vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anybody thought possible,” Trump said.
Health authorities warn there’s no guarantee -- it’s not unusual for vaccines to fail during this critical testing step. But vaccine makers and health officials are hopeful that at least one vaccine could prove to work by year’s end. Companies already are taking the unusual step of brewing hundreds of millions of doses so that mass vaccinations could begin if the Food and Drug Administration signs off.
Trump acknowledged bipartisan criticism of delays processing testing results, saying his administration was working on the problem.
“We’ll be able to get those numbers down,” Trump said, saying his administration was working to improve the availability of rapid, point-of-care tests like those used to protect him at the White House.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told NPR Tuesday that he was glad Trump has begun to promote mask-wearing and expressed optimism the president would reinforce that message Tuesday.
“If we, during those conferences, come out and have consistent, clear, noncontradictory messages, I believe it will be very helpful in getting people on the track of knowing the direction that we need to go to get this pandemic under control,” he said.
On Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting chief of staff Mark Meadows were to meet privately Tuesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on a new aid package, a day after Trump convened GOP leaders at the White House.
Democrats are pressing for the next bill to include funding for election protections, while some Republicans have broken with the White House in seeking additional federal funding for testing and contact-tracing.