Trump shifts tone as U.S. struggles to contain coronavirus outbreak

He called on the country to come together. He warned of pain to come. And he deferred to the nation’s public health experts while at least momentarily putting aside petty squabbling.

After weeks of trying to play down the risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump struck a new, more urgent tone on Monday as he delivered a sobering message to Americans grappling with a new reality that will dramatically alter their lives for months to come.

Trump’s more somber tone came as he addressed the public at a White House briefing and made a direct appeal to all Americans to do their part to halt the pandemic’s spread.

Gone — at least for now — were Trump’s “do as I say, not as I do” handshakes that had continued even after health experts admonished people to avoid contact and practice social distancing. Also gone was the rosy talk aimed, in part, at propping up reeling financial markets.

The shift was informed in part by a growing realization within the West Wing that the coronavirus crisis is an existential threat to Trump’s presidency, endangering his reelection and his legacy. Trump has told advisers that he now believes the virus will be a significant general election issue and he took note of the clear-eyed, somber tone used by his likely general election foe, Joe Biden, in Sunday’s Democratic debate.

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