“I think we did a very good job,” Trump told an undecided Pennsylvania voter who asked him about his greatest challenge as president during a town hall with ABC news anchor George Stephanopoulos.
He said the virus has taught him “that life is very fragile. I knew people that were powerful people, strong people, good people, and they got knocked out by this.”
Stephanopoulos asked him if he felt he could have taken more action against the onslaught of the virus.
“I don’t think so,” Trump said. “I think what I did by closing up the country…I really don’t think so. I think we did a very good job.”
Much of the Philadelphia town hall focused on the outbreak, and the president took tough questions on his handling of the crisis from both Stephanopoulos and the undecided voters.
He told another questioner who asked him why he took his “foot off the gas pedal” and “threw” people like him with underlying conditions “under the bus” last May that the administration has “worked very hard on the pandemic … And if you looked at what we’ve done with ventilators, and now, frankly, with vaccines — we’re very close to having the vaccine.”
He said a vaccine could be three or four weeks away – although some health experts have questioned the reality of getting a safe and effective vaccine ready for distribution by November.
He also told Stephanopoulos the pandemic would eventually go away even without a vaccine, alluding to herd immunity, the idea that an outbreak will end when a majority of the population is immune. Some experts have cautioned, though, that a herd immunity strategy could mean more than 1 million deaths.
“I feel that we’ve done a tremendous job actually, and it’s something that, I don’t think it’s been recognized like it should,” he said. “But when you look at our testing, when you look at our swabs, when you look at our ventilators, when you look at what we’ve done with hospitals — and we’ve made a lot of governors look very good, and now some are in a shutdown and some aren’t. We’d like to see it open up and open up as soon as possible.”
He told the voter he believes the administration’s actions have saved a “tremendous number of lives.”
He also told another questioner who asked him why he “downplayed” the pandemic that he actually “up-played it in terms of action.”
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“What I did was, with China – I put a ban on with Europe, I put a ban on. And we would have lost thousands of more people, had I not put the ban on,” he said. “So that was called action, not with the mouth, but an actual fact. We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on.”
Earlier this year, Trump told Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward in audio released last week that he “always wanted to play it down,” referring to the pandemic, adding that the wanted to avoid a “panic.”
Asked by Stephanopoulos if he had any regrets over the virus, Trump said, “No, I think we did a great job. If I didn’t close [travel from China], I think you’d have 2 million deaths instead of having the 185,000 – 190,000. It’s a terrible number – one is too many.”
More than 194,000 people have died in the U.S. of the virus as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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