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Trump to Bring Back Virus Briefings

'I think people want to hear from the president of the United States...'

(Headline USA) President Donald Trump is set to once again take center stage in the government’s coronavirus response after a White House debate over how best to deploy its greatest asset — him.

One week after a campaign shake-up, the plan is for Trump to again become a regular public presence at the podium starting Tuesday as confirmed coronavirus cases spike nationwide.

“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday, saying he hopes to discuss progress on vaccines and therapeutics.

His once-daily turns behind the White House briefing room podium largely ended in late April.

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In another sign of recalibration, Trump belatedly tweeted a photo of himself in a face mask Monday, calling it an act of patriotism, after months of resistance to being publicly seen in the coverings — deemed vital to slowing the spread of the virus — as a sign of weakness.

White House aides said the format, venue and frequency of the president’s forthcoming appearances haven’t been finalized. And it wasn’t clear whether he would field questions or share the stage with others, including Vice President Mike Pence and Drs. Deborah Birx or Anthony Fauci.

But it all pointed to an apparent course-reversal. Trump for months had heeded aides who pushed for him to all but ignore the virus and instead focus on the economy and more politically advantageous terrain.

Trump will use the briefings “to speak directly to the American people about the federal government’s coronavirus response and other pertinent issues,” said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews.

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The return to briefings has been championed in the West Wing by senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, who advocated publicly last week that Trump should return to the podium to more clearly highlight steps toward economic recovery but also create a stage to display leadership by addressing Americans’ concerns about COVID-19.

“His approval rating on the pandemic was higher when he was at the podium,” Conway said Friday, in a tacit admission of what is largely unspoken aloud by Trump aides: that he is behind in both public and private surveys. “It was at 51% in March. And I think people want to hear from the president of the United States.”

“It doesn’t have to be daily,” she added. “It doesn’t have to be for two hours. But in my view, it has to be.”

In addition to discussing medical developments, Trump also was expected to focus on his advocacy for schools to reopen for in-person education, following his threat to try to withhold federal funds from those that stick to remote education.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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