How Trump’s rhetoric has changed as coronavirus spread
President Trump’s comments about the coronavirus have evolved since the first confirmed US case on January 22. CNN’s tally of cases is based on records from the CDC, as well as local and state agencies.
Three weeks ago, Trump was suggesting that the virus “could maybe go away” and not make a large impact on the US. He had also suggested a stock market dip was due, in part, to a recent Democratic debate.
But this week, Trump and the White House coronavirus task force have taken a more serious approach. Trump and the task force say more cases are likely on the way. And when asked Tuesday if he agreed with his former economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, who said there’s now almost a 100% chance of a global recession, Trump didn’t swat down the suggestion outright.
“It could be. I mean, I don’t think in terms of recession,” he said.
As the virus has spread, a few things have remained constant.
Trump has repeatedly praised his administration’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus in the US — especially his decision to restrict travel from China.
And the President has sought to deflect any of the public’s negative perceptions about his response and sought to emphasize China’s link to the virus by calling it the “China virus.” After consulting with medical experts, and receiving guidance from the World Health Organization, CNN has determined that that name is both inaccurate and is considered stigmatizing.
Here’s a look at how Trump’s language has changed as the virus has spread. Each entry includes the number of US coronavirus cases in the morning of a given day and the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the close of the US stock market for that date. Trump’s words aren’t solely driving these numbers. But the figures are provided as context and as a backdrop against the President’s messaging to the American people. The number of cases is based on a CNN tally using information from various local and state agencies in addition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
January 21, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 1
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 29,196.04
The first coronavirus case in the United States is identified in Washington state.
The next day, when asked by CNBC whether he was worried about a pandemics, Trump says: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s — going to be just fine.”
January 30, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 5
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 28,859.44
Trump suggests that the impact in the US is low, tweeting: “Only 5 people in U.S., all in good recovery.”
February 10, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 12
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 29,276.82
At a rally in New Hampshire, Trump suggests that warmer weather will cause the coronavirus to die off.
“Looks like by April, you know in theory when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away. I hope that’s true,” Trump tells his supporters.
He also signals that while dealing with the virus is “rough stuff,” adding: “I think it’s going to work out good. We only have 11 cases and they’re all getting better.”
February 24, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 35
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 27,960.80
“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” Trump tweets, trying to relay that both the virus and the state of the stock market are under control. “Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
February 26, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 56
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 26,957.59
President maintains that “the risk to the American people remains very low” and the US is prepared for more cases.
“We’re very, very ready for this. Whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we’re at that very low level,” he says during a news conference.
The President also tweets blame to cable news networks MSNBC and CNN for “doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible.” In the same tweet, he says, “(T)heir incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”
March 2, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 90
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 26,703.32
The President mistakenly suggests a coronavirus vaccine could be fully developed and deployed in the US within a matter of months. He’s immediately corrected by his top infectious disease expert.
March 5, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 161
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 26,121.28
Trump maintains that he’ll shake hands and hug people, despite the possibility of increased transmission.
The President also touts the government’s high approval ratings and criticizes Democrats on Twitter.
“Gallup just gave us the highest rating ever for the way we are handling the CoronaVirus situation,” he tweets. “The April 2009-10 Swine Flu, where nearly 13,000 people died in the U.S., was poorly handled. Ask MSDNC & lightweight Washington failure @RonaldKlain, who the President was then?”
March 9, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 565
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 23,851.02
The President says life and the economy will “go on” and compares Covid-19 cases to influenza.
“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!” Trump tweets.
March 11, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 1,000
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 23,553.22
The World Health Organization declares Covid-19’s spread a pandemic.
Trump holds an evening Oval Office address where he announces new travel restrictions on most of Europe.
“We have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe,” Trump said as he read from a teleprompter behind the Resolute Desk. “The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”
Earlier in the day, Trump downplays a potential economic stimulus package, saying during a Cabinet Room meeting: “If we get rid of the problem quickly, everything solves itself, we don’t need stimulus.”
March 13, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 1,666
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 23,185.62
The President declares a national emergency.
“Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus,” Trump says in the Rose Garden.
March 15, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 2,885
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: Sunday, no trading
“We are doing very precise Medical Screenings at our airports. Pardon the interruptions and delays, we are moving as quickly as possible, but it is very important that we be vigilant and careful,” Trump tweets. “We must get it right. Safety first!”
March 17, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 4,477
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 21,237.38
The Trump administration proposes a $1 trillion economic response package to Congress.
“It’s going to be big and it’s going to be bold,” Trump says of the legislative proposal, which potentially includes $1,000 checks to Americans.
“I think we’re going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible. That may not be an accurate way of doing it because obviously some people shouldn’t be getting checks for $1,000. But we’ll have a pretty good idea by the end of the day what we’re going to be doing,” Trump said.
March 18, 2020
US coronavirus diagnoses: 6,138
Dow Jones Industrial Average at close: 19,898.92
Trump authorizes the deployment of military hospital ships to assist states heavily impacted by the coronavirus and invokes the Defense Procurement Act to produce and distribute more medical supplies.
“We must sacrifice together, because we are all in this together, and we’ll come through together. It’s the invisible enemy that’s always the toughest enemy, the invisible enemy, but we’re going to defeat the invisible enemy,” Trump says during a press briefing.