President Donald Trump has doubled down on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine after sharing a viral video that alleged masks and shutdowns did not work in stopping the coronavirus.
One week after Mr Trump sought to strike a new tone and resumed regular press briefings, the US president found himself once again defending his decision to promote people taking the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat or ward off the virus — a claim many leading health professionals have questioned.
“Many doctors think it is extremely successful . . . and some people don’t . . . As you know, I took it for a 14-day period. And I’m here.”
Mr Trump said he “didn’t know why” Twitter and Facebook decided to remove a viral video that showed a group of doctors making discredited claims about the virus.
“I guess Twitter took them off and I think Facebook took them off, I don’t know why, I think they’re very respected doctors . . . Maybe they had a good reason [to take them off], maybe they didn’t.”
A Twitter account belonging to his son Donald Trump Jr was temporarily suspended earlier on Tuesday after sharing the video.
Mr Trump’s comments came one week after he encouraged the country to wear masks in public for the first time, and took a stark tone on the spread of the virus, declaring that the situation would “get worse before it gets better”.
On Tuesday, coronavirus figures showed a record one-day increase in deaths in Florida, the country’s third-most populous state. Overall, the US has averaged more than 1,000 deaths a day for the past week for the first time since late May.
While the number of new coronavirus cases nationwide has been dropping off from record highs in recent days — the US registered 53,507 new cases on Tuesday — public health experts warned that hotspots could emerge if preventive steps were not taken.
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Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that he was concerned about the rising number of positive test cases in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee — an early indication that those states might be at the centre of the next big outbreak.
“That’s a sure-fire sign that you’ve got to be really careful,” he said.
Mr Trump has repeatedly clashed with Dr Fauci, one of the country’s top public health officials, who has enjoyed high approval ratings throughout the virus.
On Monday, Mr Trump shared a tweet accusing Dr Fauci of misleading the country on hydroxychloroquine. However, at his Tuesday press briefing, the president suggested that he either did not know about the tweet or had not looked at it closely.
“I think I don’t even know what [Dr Fauci’s] stance is on [hydroxychloroquine],” Mr Trump said. He said that he had “a very good relationship” with Dr Fauci but said that he hadn’t “always agreed with him”, noting that Dr Fauci had been against imposing a travel ban on China during the early days of the virus.
“He didn’t want to do that and I did and other things and he told me I was right and he told me I saved tens of thousands of lives, which was generous but it’s, you know, I think it’s fact.”
Mr Trump said he did not understand why Dr Fauci and Deborah Birx — the other top doctor leading the administration’s coronavirus response — had such high approval ratings, but he did not.
“It is sort of is curious. A man works for us, with us, very closely, Dr Fauci and Dr Birx, very highly thought of,” the president said. “And yet they’re highly thought of, but nobody likes me. It can only be my personality.”