Trump Knew Dangers Of COVID-19 In February But Played Down Concerns, Taped Comments Show

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DALLAS, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event.

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward revealed in a new book, Rage, that President Donald Trump knew about the dangers of the coronavirus weeks before the first confirmed U.S. coronavirus death. Woodward has released the audio recordings with the president’s own words.

“It goes through the air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” said Trump on Feb. 7.

He continued, “And so, that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than your – you know, your, even your strenuous flus. You know, people don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here. … This is more deadly. This is five per– you know, this is five percent versus one percent and less than one percent. You know? So this is deadly stuff.”

Trump’s words in February belie his public response to the pandemic, as up until summer he had consistently played down the dangers of COVID-19 in public. Trump continued to encourage his supporters to not wear masks and take proper precautions even as he knew the truth.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said to Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

On Wednesday, Trump addressed this comment in a press conference, defending his action. “The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.”

In the same March interview with Woodward, Trump also revealed that he knew that youth were at risk for the virus.

“Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old– older,” said Trump. “Young people too, plenty of young people.”

The misinformation that young people are immune to the coronavirus is still present today and may have affected people’s decisions to send their children back to school or to open schools.

Thousands of lives could have been saved, according to experts, had Trump acted in February instead of spreading misinformation.