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On January 22, two days after the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was confirmed, President Donald Trump was asked if his administration was worried about an impending pandemic. “No, we’re not at all,” he replied. “And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.” The dismissiveness and overconfidence of his answer would set the tone for his administration’s response in the coming weeks, as the coronavirus metastasized into a public health emergency and the greatest crisis of his presidency.
In the weeks since, more than 1 million Americans have fallen ill and more than 57,000 have died. More than 26 million people have lost their jobs and Congress has approved $2.7 trillion in relief aid. Some states are preparing to reopen their economies, even as front-line workers still lack protective equipment and testing is nowhere near the levels experts say it should be. The severity of the moment has often escaped the president, who seems intent on solving the crisis with spin and bluster—along with a healthy dose of magical thinking and buck-passing.
What the next few months will bring is unclear, but a look back at the first 100 days of America’s coronavirus crisis clearly shows the consequences of the president’s lack of preparation, seriousness, and empathy.
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🤷🏻♂️ Downplaying risks
✨ Magical thinking
👈 Blaming others
😷 Testing problems
“It will all work out well”
COVID-19 Stats: January 20, 2020
Cases in China: 291
January 20The Centers for Disease Control confirms the first COVID-19 case in the United States, a Washington man who returned from Wuhan, China, five days earlier. • Two days earlier, President Donald Trump received his first major briefing on the virus from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. According to the Washington Post, the president asked Azar when a ban on flavored vaping products would be lifted.
🤷🏻♂️January 22Asked if his administration was worried about a coronavirus pandemic, Trump says, “No, we’re not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.”
🤷🏻♂️ 😷January 24Trump tweets: “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!” • The CDC says it has developed a test for the novel coronavirus.
🤷🏻♂️January 27Joe Biden publishes an op-ed in USA Today: “The possibility of a pandemic is a challenge Donald Trump is unqualified to handle as president.…To be blunt, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies have left us unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.”
🤷🏻♂️January 28Trump holds a rally in New Jersey. He does not mention the coronavirus.
David Butow/ReduxDays 11-20
“It’s going to have a very good ending”
COVID-19 Stats: January 30, 2020
Countries with reported cases: 19
🤷🏻♂️January 30The World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern.” • At an event in Michigan, Trump says, “We’re working very strongly with China on the coronavirus—that’s a new thing that a lot of people are talking about….We think it’s going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you.”
January 31Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says, “There’s no doubt…that asymptomatic transmission is occurring.”
February 1Trump golfs at Trump International in West Palm Beach, Florida.
February 2The White House implements restrictions on travel from China that had been announced on January 31. The ban does not apply to Americans; more than 40,000 people enter the United States from China over the next two months. • Trump spends more than five hours at Trump International.
🤷🏻♂️February 5The Senate votes to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial. • Sen. Chris Murphy tweets, “Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom line: they aren’t taking this seriously enough.”
February 7Asked if he thinks China is covering up the coronavirus, Trump says, “No. China is working very hard….They’re working really hard, and I think they are doing a very professional job. They’re in touch with the World [Health] Organization. CDC also. We’re working together.”
😷February 8One day after CDC testing kits reach state and local public-health labs, most report that they do not work properly.
David Butow/ReduxDays 21-30
“We’re in very good shape”
COVID-19 Stats: February 9, 2020
Cases in South Korea: 25
✨February 10At a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump says, “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”
🤷🏻♂️February 11Trump holds a rally in El Paso. He does not mention the coronavirus.
🤷🏻♂️February 13Trump tells Geraldo Rivera, “It’s a problem in China. Has not been spreading very much. In our country, we only have, basically, 12 cases and most of those people are recovering and some cases fully recovered. So it’s actually less.”
🤷🏻♂️February 14Trump says, “We have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It’s like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we’re in very good shape.” He continues, “And I spoke with President Xi of China, and he’s working very hard on this. It’s a tremendous problem. But they’re very capable and they’ll—they’ll get to it.”
February 15Trump golfs at Trump International.
February 18The Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, has more coronavirus cases than any location outside of China. (Altogether, more than 700 passengers fall ill.)
Saul Loeb/AFP/GettyDays 31-40
“This is their new hoax”
COVID-19 Stats: February 19, 2020
Total tests done in US so far: 2
🤷🏻♂️ ✨February 19In an interview, Trump says, “I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus. So let’s see what happens, but I think it’s going to work out fine.” • Trump holds a rally in Phoenix. He does not mention the coronavirus.
🤷🏻♂️February 20Trump holds a rally in Colorado Springs. He does not mention the coronavirus.
🤷🏻♂️February 21Trump holds a rally in Las Vegas. He does not mention the coronavirus.
🤷🏻♂️ 👑February 23Trump tells reporters, “We have it very much under control in this country.”
🤷🏻♂️ 😷February 24The White House asks Congress for $1.25 billion in emergency funds. • The Association of Public Health Laboratories writes the FDA, “We are now many weeks into the response with still no diagnostic or surveillance test available outside of the CDC for the vast majority of our member laboratories” • Trump tweets, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health [Organization] have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
👈February 25The stock market dips after Nancy Messonier, the director of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, says the CDC is preparing for a pandemic. According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump threatens to fire her.
February 26Trump puts Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response. • At a press briefing, Trump says, “We’re testing everybody that we need to test. And we’re finding very little problem.…It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.” He says the number of cases “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” • The CDC confirms the first instance of community spread of the virus in the United States.
🤷🏻♂️ ✨February 27CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield testifies before Congress that his agency “believes that the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is low.” • At a Black History Month event, Trump says, “It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”
🤷🏻♂️ 👈February 28At a rally in Charleston, South Carolina, Trump notes that there have been no reported deaths in the United States yet. “You wonder if the press is in hysteria mode,” he says. “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he continues. “You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it….And this is their new hoax.”
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/GettyDays 41-50
“Anybody that needs a test gets a test”
COVID-19 Stats: February 29, 2020
Total tests done in South Korea so far: 56,539
February 29Health officials in Washington announce the first known coronavirus death in the United States. (In April, it is found that the first confirmed death was on February 6 in California.) • Confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea peak.
✨ 👑March 2At a White House meeting, Trump presses pharmaceutical CEOs to say a vaccine will be ready in a matter of months. Dr. Anthony Fauci corrects him: “a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.” • At a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, that evening, Trump says drug companies are “going to have vaccines I think relatively soon. And they’re going to have something that makes you better, and that’s going to actually take place we think even sooner.” And: “The United States is, right now, ranked by far number one in the world for preparedness.”
🤷🏻♂️ ✨March 4Trump tells Sean Hannity, “a lot of people will have this, and it’s very mild. They will get better very rapidly.” He continues, “So, if we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work—some of them go to work, but they get better….It’s not that severe.”
👈 😷March 5Trump tweets, “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work. This is just more Fake News and disinformation put out by the Democrats.” • Pence tells reporters, “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”
🤷🏻♂️ 👈 😷March 6During a visit to the CDC, Trump says, “Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” • Trump also says he would like to keep infected people on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the California coast so the official case count does not rise: “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
March 7Trump golfs at Trump International.
👑 👈March 8Trump golfs at Trump International. • He tweets, “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus….The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!”
🤷🏻♂️ 😷March 9Trump tweets, “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!” • Pence says, “Before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed.”
David Butow/ReduxDays 51-60
“I don’t take responsibility at all.”
COVID-19 Stats: March 10, 2020
Increase in hand sanitizer and surgical mask prices on Amazon: 50% or more
🤷🏻♂️ 👑March 10Asked about the economic impact of the coronavirus, Trump says, “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
March 11The WHO declares the coronavirus a pandemic. • In an Oval Office address, Trump announces he will suspend all travel and trade with Europe, except the United Kingdom, for 30 days. (He corrects himself with a tweet saying that the ban applies to “people not goods.”) The ban does not apply to US citizens.
😷March 12Trump claims that travelers to the United States are being systematically tested. (They’re not.) “We have a tremendous testing setup where people coming in have to be tested and if they are positive and if they’re able to get through because frankly if they are not, we are not putting them on planes if it shows positive….Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test.”
👈March 13Trump declares a national emergency—“Two very big words.” • At a press conference in the Rose Garden, he is asked if he takes responsibility for testing delays. “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all,” he responds. When a reporter asks why he disbanded the White House pandemic office in 2018, he replies, “I just think it’s a nasty question….And when you say ‘me,’ I didn’t do it.”
👈 😷March 15At a daily briefing, Trump says, “This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible. But it’s something that we have tremendous control over.” • He tweets, “The individual Governors of States, and local officials, must step up their efforts on drive up testing and testing sights [sic], working in conjunction with @CDCgov and the Federal Government!”
👑March 16The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops nearly 3,000 points, its biggest drop in history, breaking the record set four days earlier. • Asked how he would rate his response to the crisis, Trump says, “I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job.”
👑March 17Trump says, “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic….I’ve always viewed it as very serious.”
👑 👈March 18Trump tweets, “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!” • He says his use of the phrase “Chinese virus” is “not racist at all.”
✨March 19California Gov. Gavin Newsom issues the first statewide stay-at-home order. • In a press briefing, Trump suggests the FDA has approved the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. (It hadn’t.) He says, “It’s shown very encouraging—very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.” Also: “If things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”
John TaggartDays 61-70
“President Trump is a ratings hit”
COVID-19 Stats: March 20, 2020
Percentage of Americans under stay at home orders: More than 20%
March 20Italy’s official death toll tops China’s.
✨March 21Trump tweets, “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”
🤷🏻♂️March 23An Arizona man dies after intentionally ingesting chloroquine phosphate, a fish tank cleaner. • At a briefing, Trump says, “America will again and soon be open for business….Parts of our country are very lightly affected.”
🤷🏻♂️ 😷March 24At a Fox News virtual town hall, Trump says, “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” • As cases surge in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the White House isn’t sending enough equipment: “What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?”
👈 😷March 26The United States has more reported coronavirus cases than any other country. • Trump tells Hannity, “We’ve now established great testing….We’ve tested now more than anybody.” • At a press briefing, Trump says, “This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this country….Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.”
😷 👈March 27Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. • Trump invokes the Defense Protection Act to get General Motors to make ventilators. At his daily briefing, Trump promises, “In the next 100 days, we will either make or get in some form over 100,000 additional units.” (HHS later says only about one-third of that number will be ready by June.) • Trump says governors “should be appreciative” of his administration and that he’s advised Pence not to call those who “don’t treat you right.”
🤷🏻♂️ 👑March 29At press briefing, Trump notes predictions that the coronavirus, left unchecked, could kill as many as 2.2 million Americans: “And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000—it’s a horrible number, maybe even less—but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we altogether have done a very good job.” • Selectively quoting the New York Times, Trump tweets, “‘President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise…”
Win McNamee/GettyDays 71-80
“I haven’t heard about testing being a problem”
COVID-19 Stats: March 30, 2020
Americans applying for unemployment benefits in past week: 6.7 million
🤷🏻♂️ 😷March 30On a conference call, governors tell Trump about their states’ need for more tests and equipment. Trump says, “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks. We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world….I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”
👑 👈March 31Coronavirus deaths in New York and New Jersey double in three days. • At a daily briefing, Trump warns of “a very, very painful two weeks” ahead. • Trump says, “I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, okay? And I think that’s a great tribute to something, maybe it’s a tribute to me, but I don’t think I would have acted any differently, or I don’t think I would have acted any faster.”
Pence tells CNN, “I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus.”
👈 😷April 2The Navy fires Capt. Brett Crozier after his letter is leaked asking for assistance with a COVID-19 outbreak on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. • White House adviser Jared Kusher says that the federal Strategic National Stockpile of ventilators and other equipment is “supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.” • The US death toll passes 5,000.
😷April 3Trump offers rapid coronavirus tests to oil executives meeting with him at the White House. Afterward, he says, “Listen: They gave us millions of jobs. If anybody wants to be tested, we’ll test them.” • HHS changes an online description of the Strategic National Stockpile that had contradicted Kusher’s comments a day earlier.
✨ 👈April 4Trump again pushes hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment. “I may take it. And I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it.” • He says he supports the decision to fire Crozier: “I thought it was terrible what he did to write a letter.”
✨April 5At his daily briefing, Trump says the federal government has stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine. “What do you have to lose?” he says. “I’ve seen things that I sort of like. So what do I know? I’m not a doctor.”
😷April 6Trump removes Glenn Fine, the independent watchdog overseeing $2 trillion in coronavirus spending. • Governors complain that the White House is intercepting their orders for protective equipment and ventilators. Trump is “basically playing political games around life-or-death issues and leaving states to fend for themselves,” a Democratic consultant tells the New York Times. • The US death toll passes 10,000.
Mark Peterson/ReduxDays 81-90
“The authority is total”
COVID-19 Stats: April 9, 2020
Percentage of Americans who have been tested: Less than 1%
😷April 9At his daily press briefing, Trump says, “We have a great testing system…the best testing system in the world.” He dismisses the need for nationwide testing: “Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We’re talking 325 million people. That’s not going to happen, as you can imagine.”
April 11The US death toll passes 20,000. The United States has passed Italy to have more confirmed coronavirus deaths than any other nation.
👈 😷April 12Trump tweets, “Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected. Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses! The Federal Government is there to help. We are testing more than any country in the World.” • Trump retweets a tweet attacking Fauci hashtagged #FireFauci.
👑 👈 😷April 13The Treasury Department orders that Trump’s signature go on every stimulus check. • Trump forms an “Opening Our Country” council, which includes Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Mark Meadows, Steven Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow, Robert Lighthizer, and Wilbur Ross. • A demonstration against shutdown measures outside the Ohio state capitol sets off a wave of protests organized by conservative groups with close ties to the White House. • Trump blames delays in testing on the Obama administration: “What we inherited from the previous administration was totally broken, which somebody should eventually say. Not only were the cupboards bare, as I say, but we inherited broken testing. Now we have great testing.” • Asked about his conflicts with governors over when to reopen their states, Trump says, “When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”
Trump announces he will withhold funding to the WHO, accusing it of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the coronavirus in China.
👈April 15Trump says his administration could take action against governors who do not follow its guidelines on reopening: “We have the right to do whatever we want. But we wouldn’t do that.”
April 16Trump issues guidance to governors saying they can start reopening their states as early as May 1. He says each state’s response is “dependent on what the governor wants to do.” • The US death toll passes 30,000.
Timothy Fadek/ReduxDays 91-100
“The hardest working President in history”
COVID-19 Stats: April 19, 2020
Deaths worldwide: 165,044
Trump’s approval rating: 43%
👈 😷April 19At his daily briefing, Trump says, “You must remember that the governors wanted to have total control over the opening of their states, but now they want to have us, the federal government, do the testing. And again, testing is local. You can’t have it both ways.” • Asked by CNN about Trump’s claims that there is adequate testing for states to begin reopening, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam replies, “That’s just delusional, to be making statements like that.”
🤷🏻♂️April 20Trump tweets, “States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing.” • At the daily briefing, a reporter asks the president if he thinks he downplayed the coronavirus by holding rallies in February and March. “Oh, I don’t know about rallies. I really don’t know about rallies,” he says. “I haven’t left the White House in months.”
🤷🏻♂️April 21Redfield tells the Washington Post, “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.” • The US death toll passes 40,000.
🤷🏻♂️ 👈April 22Trump signs an executive order temporarily restricting some immigration to the United States. • Dr. Rick Bright says he was removed as the head of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after questioning efforts to push hydroxychloroquine. • Trump tweets, “States are safely coming back. Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS again.” Yet at his daily press briefing, Trump says he disagrees “strongly” with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow certain businesses to reopen. • Trump claims Redfield was “totally misquoted” by the Post; Redfield says he was “accurately quoted.”
✨April 23At his daily briefing, Trump wonders if disinfectant can be used internally to kill the coronavirus: “Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?”
😷April 24Trump says he “was asking a question sarcastically” about injecting disinfectant. (The maker of Lysol issues a statement “that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body.”) • The FDA issues a safety alert about serious heart rhythm problems in people with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine. • The WHO announces an $8 billion international effort to speed coronavirus testing and vaccine development. The US government says it is not participating.
👈April 25Trump tweets, “I never said the pandemic was a Hoax! Who would say such a thing?” He also tweets that daily press briefings are “Not worth the time & effort!”
👑April 26Following a recent New York Times report that he spends his days watching TV news and skipping coronavirus task force meetings, Trump tweets, “The people that know me and know the history of our Country say that I am the hardest working President in history.”
🤷🏻♂️ 😷April 27The US death toll passes 50,000. • At his daily briefing, Trump says, “We have enough testing to begin reopening….And the testing is not going to be a problem at all.” Also: “I think you’ll see a lot of schools open up even if it’s for a very short period of time. I think it would be a good thing.” • Pressed by a reporter, Pence says that his March 9 comments about the distribution of 4 million tests did not refer to those tests being completed.
🤷🏻♂️April 28As the cumulative number of US cases surpasses 1 million, the death toll exceeds the number of American deaths in the Vietnam War. • Pence visits the Mayo Clinic and ignores its mask requirement so he can look health care workers “in the eye.” • Nine states have started the process of lifting their stay at home restrictions. None has met the federal recommendation that they wait for 14 consecutive days of declines before reopening. • Asked about his earlier assurances that coronavirus cases would disappear, Trump says: “Well, it will go down to zero, ultimately.” When asked what will happen if states reopen before there’s a coronavirus vaccine, he says, “I think what happens is it’s going to go away.”
Top image credits: Michael Reynolds/CNP/ZUMA (3); Al Drago/CNP/ZUMA; Getty Images. Other image credits: Fabrice Coffrini/Getty; Hhs/Zuma; Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty; Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty; Alex Brandon/AP; Image Of Sport/Zuma; Scott Heins/Getty; Brendan Smialowski/Getty; White House/Zuma; Thomas Lohnes/Getty; Spencer Platt/Getty; Kristin Callahan/Zuma; Jim Watson/AFP/Getty; Mandel Ngan/Getty; Getty; View Press/Getty; Megan Jelinger/Getty; Star Tribune/Getty; Xinhua News/Getty; Win McNamee/Getty
Data sources on reported cases, deaths, and tests: New York Times, Johns Hopkins University, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, COVID Tracking Project