WASHINGTON — After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it.
Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear directives amid a crippling surge in cases across the country. On Thursday, the United States reported more than 55,000 new cases of coronavirus and infection rates were hitting new records in multiple states.
At the crux of the message, officials said, is a recognition by the White House that the virus is not going away any time soon — and will be around through the November election.
As a result, President Donald Trump’s top advisers plan to argue, the country must figure out how to press forward despite it. Therapeutic drugs will be showcased as a key component for doing that and the White House will increasingly emphasize the relatively low risk most Americans have of dying from the virus, officials said.
For nearly six months the administration offered a series of predictions and pronouncements that never came to fruition. From Trump promising that “the problem goes away in April” and predicting “packed churches all over our country” on Easter Sunday to Vice President Mike Pence’s claim that “by Memorial Day weekend we will have this coronavirus epidemic behind us” to Jared Kushner’s pronouncement the country would be “really rocking again” by July because Americans were “on the other side of the medical aspect of this.”
This all followed the White House’s initial message in January that the virus wasn’t a threat at all. Asked if he was worried about a pandemic, Trump said at the time, “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
The message then morphed to the idea that the virus would be swiftly crushed by a robust federal response. “WE WILL WIN THIS WAR,” Trump tweeted in March.
Soon after, the president demanded governors open up their states and said he had the authority to force them to do so. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” he wrote on Twitter in April. Within days he decided to shift responsibility for the pandemic to the governors, saying, “The federal government will be watching them very closely and will be there to help in many different ways.”
In recent weeks, the message has been that the country is back, face coverings and social distancing are optional, even as the number of coronavirus cases across the country surged.