The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Trump administration has contradicted itself on coronavirus no fewer than 20 times in less than six weeks

President Trump’s administration has contradicted its coronavirus message at least 20 times over the past two months. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Initially, warmer weather would kill it. Then it wouldn’t.

The number of cases would soon be close to zero. Then they rose.

It should be treated like the flu. Except it is deadlier.

As many as 1 million people could be tested by the end of last week. Until they weren’t.

As President Trump has tried to contain the potential health, economic and political consequences of the coronavirus over the past two months, he and administration officials have repeatedly undercut one another’s messaging about their efforts to combat the virus. We show exactly how in the video above.

Over the past six weeks, Trump and members of his administration have contradicted other Trump officials at least 20 times on various aspects of coronavirus preparedness and response.

Often, Trump has sought to play down the threat with a mix of selectively presented facts and false statements. At other points, Trump officials have focused some of their remarks on praising the president during interviews and press gaggles about the virus.

“A lot of people think [the coronavirus] goes away in April with the heat,” Trump said Feb. 10.

Three days later, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN, “This virus is probably with us beyond this season or beyond this year.”

Laying out his administration’s response to the virus at a news conference on Feb. 26, Trump said Americans should “view this the same as the flu.”

One week later, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress that the coronavirus mortality rate is “multiple times” higher than the seasonal flu. Later that day, Trump told Fox News that based on his “hunch,” the World Health Organization’s coronavirus mortality rate was a “false number.”

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On multiple occasions, Trump has suggested that a coronavirus vaccine may be available sooner than expected, even as Fauci has repeatedly said a potential vaccine wouldn’t be available for at least a year. On Friday, Fauci said a malaria treatment could not prevent the coronavirus. Less than a minute later, Trump suggested it could.

The White House has issued conflicting messages about whether it is past the point of working to contain the virus — instead working to mitigate its effects — and White House officials have given mixed messages about whether the virus is under control. And four days after Trump signed an executive order invoking the Defense Production Act, which would give him the ability to push manufacturers to produce medical supplies in high demand, FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN Trump hasn’t enforced it yet.

Even as the administration has sought to clarify how many coronavirus tests are available for Americans, Trump told reporters on March 6 that “anyone who wants a test can get a test,” contradicting what Vice President Pence said just 24 hours before.

“We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” Pence said at a 3M plant in Minnesota on Thursday.

On Saturday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar clarified further.

“You may not get a test unless a doctor or public health official prescribes a test,” Azar said during an off-camera briefing.

In February, Trump was asked whether Americans should worry about making summer travel plans.

“We think — we hope — that it’s going to be in good shape by that time. But, you know, they’re going to have to remain a little bit flexible,” Trump said. “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

Minutes earlier at the same news conference, CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said more coronavirus cases were expected.

Less than a month later, there are more than 41,000 cases in the United States.