WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump offered a newly sober projection for the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, warning Americans that the country had not yet seen the worst of it.
"It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better. Something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is," Trump said at his first coronavirus-related news conference in weeks.
Trump, who had resisted wearing face coverings in public, also encouraged Americans to wear masks to help stop the spread of the virus.
"America's youth will act responsibly, and we're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask. Get a mask," Trump said. "Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they'll have an effect, and we need everything we can get."
Although Trump offered his most realistic picture yet of the challenges facing Americans as case numbers continue to rise, he still made false statements about the U.S. mortality rate, hospital capacity and states' preparedness to combat the virus.
"Fatalities nationwide have fallen 75 percent since mid-April. It's a great number. As cases and fatalities rise in certain hard-hit states, which you're looking at right now, we're surging personnel, supplies and therapeutics. We again have tremendous amounts of supplies. We are in very good shape, and we can move them quickly," Trump said.
According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, especially when adjusted per 100,000 people. Internal White House documents obtained by NBC News also show that the federal government may not have the capacity to supply medical professionals with personal protective equipment, and multiple governors have recently warned of testing shortages.
Trump continued to stand by his claim that, contrary to all evidence, the coronavirus will "just disappear."
"Well, the virus will disappear. It will disappear," Trump said when pressed by reporters.
Trump, who abruptly ended daily coronavirus briefings in April after he suggested that an "injection" of household disinfectant could keep a person from contracting the virus, promised that he would bring the news conferences back.
"We'll be doing these quite often. We're going to keep you abreast of this," Trump said.
Public health officials who usually attended the briefings in the spring, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, were not present for Tuesday's news conference.
"President Trump's preposterous claim tonight that he has a 'relentless focus' on COVID-19 rings hollow when stacked up against the months he has spent dismissing the incredible damage that's been caused by this virus — even repeating tonight that it will simply 'disappear' after it's left 140,000 Americans dead and our economy reeling," said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.