Trump claims 'victory' as US sees Covid-19 case records in multiple states

Tom Lutz and Martin Pengelly in New York
Photograph: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

On the Fourth of July national holiday, a day after the US reported a third straight day with a more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases and as Florida and Texas reported more record rises, Donald Trump claimed “a tremendous victory” was at hand.

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“It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen big,” the president said in a message to the nation. “Our country will be greater than ever before.”

In fact, as a weekend of socially distanced fireworks and face-masked barbecues began, researchers at Johns Hopkins University reported at least 51,842 new coronavirus cases on Friday.

Florida, one of the worst-hit states, confirmed cases there had risen by a record 11,458, the second time in three days the caseload had gone up by more than 10,000. North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Alaska, Missouri, Idaho and Alabama also registered new daily highs. Texas also hit a new peak for hospitalisations.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland who released the daily figure for Friday, the US has now recorded more than 2.8m cases of Covid-19 and nearly 130,000 deaths.

Trump claimed: “We were doing better than any country had done in history ... and then we got hit with this terrible plague from China and now we’re getting closer to fighting our way out of it.”

In fact, records show Covid-19 cases are rising in 37 states and falling significantly in only one, Vermont.

Trump continued: “Our country is coming back, our jobs numbers are spectacular, a lot of things are happening that people don’t quite see yet. We’re on our way to a tremendous victory. It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen big. Our country will be greater than ever before.”

On Thursday, the federal jobs report showed a surge in hiring. Experts cautioned that the numbers were drawn from the beginning of economic reopening, before a consequent surge in cases.

On Twitter on Saturday, Trump repeated his claim that “if we didn’t test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases”, and said: “In the meantime, deaths and the all important mortality rate goes down.”

Experts say the US mortality rate has fallen due to testing, treatment and the age and health profile of those now being infected. Any increase in mortality would be expected to lag behind a rise in diagnoses.

Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in the presidential election in November, also released a message marking the holiday. Discussing civil unrest over police brutality and structural racism – protests which inspired Trump’s claims about “far-left fascism” in a speech at Mount Rushmore on Friday – Biden promised to win “a battle for the soul of this nation”.

On Twitter, the former vice-president added: “This Fourth of July, one of the most patriotic things you can do is wear a mask.”

Masks were optional at the Trump event in South Dakota, where social distancing was not in evidence. As Trump spoke, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign official and Donald Trump Jr’s girlfriend, was reported to have tested positive for the virus.

It was reported that face coverings would be available at the White House on Saturday night, when Trump was due to hold another holiday celebration. Preparations for the event included socially distanced chairs seen on the South Lawn.

According to a report from CNN, meanwhile, the White House has denied public health leaders permission to appear on television and speak on behalf of the federal government about steps to contain the coronavirus.

One anonymous official said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was thought too blunt about the dangers of Covid-19, or too “doom and gloom”.

Earlier this week, Fauci testified before a Senate committee, an appearance broadcast on TV. He delivered a sobering message: that the US could soon see 100,000 new cases a day and that the death toll “is going to be very disturbing”.

Since then, in states including Texas and Florida, hospitals have continued to fill and reopening measures have been rescinded. States which suffered at the beginning of the outbreak, New York prominent among them, are also slowing reopening.

In March and April, as cases surged on the east coast and elsewhere, members of the White House taskforce on Covid-19 were familiar figures on TV. Fauci in particular won praise for his calm and no-nonsense advice, which often stood in contrast to speculative and confused messaging from Trump himself.

Related: Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr's girlfriend, tests positive for Covid-19

But Fauci last appeared spoke directly to US TV networks on 12 June. According to CNN, he and other prominent members of the taskforce, such as Drs Deborah Birx and Robert Redfield, now rarely grant TV interviews. The anonymous source told CNN officials have been unable to gain permission to appear even though “now is the time to be sending a strong public health message”.

Even figures seen as more amenable to the administration’s aims have struggled for airtime. The surgeon general, Dr Jerome Adams, has made just two broadcast appearances in the last few weeks, one on local radio and the other on NBC on Friday. There, Adams was asked about Trump’s decision not to wear a mask in public.

“Every single person has to make up their own mind,” he said.

Alex Azar, the health secretary, has appeared on most major networks in the last few weeks. Fauci, CNN said, has been appearing on media less used by the White House, such as podcasts and foreign broadcasts.

On Friday, NBC reported that the White House is preparing to change its messaging on the coronavirus, to tell Americans it simply has to be lived with.


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