As the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 67,000 on Sunday, President Trump expressed confidence about reopening the nation’s economy and offered support to protesters who have demonstrated against the restrictions still in place in many states.
“We are very confident we are going to have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump said. Scientists have repeatedly warned that a vaccine may take 12-18 months or longer.
Trump said Sunday night that he was first briefed about coronavirus on January 23 and indicated the US intelligence agencies would be issuing a statement in the coming days.
“On January 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import. In other words it wasn’t, ‘Oh we gotta do something, we gotta do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on January 23,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall.
Trump also said Sunday that his administration is optimistic that a vaccine for the coronavirus will be ready by the end of 2020, though top public health officials have cautioned that developing such a vaccine could take a year to 18 months.
Trump in April predicted 60,000 American lives would be lost but on Sunday said: “We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That’s a horrible thing.”
Trump indicated that intelligence agencies would release further information on Monday about the virus but failed to give details. Asked why he didn’t act earlier on the epidemic, the president said that on 23 January he was in told in briefings there “could be a virus coming, but it was of no real import”.