Timeline: Charting Trump's public comments on Covid-19 vs. what he told Woodward in private

By Tara Subramaniam and Christopher Hickey, CNN Published September 16, 2020

Washington (CNN) – President Donald Trump’s public messaging about the coronavirus has been amazingly consistent since January. Even before the virus reached the US, Trump has downplayed its threat, minimizing its potential severity and continually reassuring the American public that it would soon disappear.

With the publication of Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage, for the first time the public got to hear what Trump was saying about the virus behind closed doors. In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump indicated he was more aware of the threat than he was conveying publicly. And he admitted to playing down that threat, concealing what he knew about how deadly and contagious the virus was.

Taken together, Trump’s private comments and public pronouncements reveal two distinct narratives. Here’s a breakdown of relevant public statements from the President, Trump’s comments to Woodward and other developments related to the coronavirus.

Officials in Washington state confirm the first case of coronavirus on US soil.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump says he isn’t worried that the outbreak could turn into a global pandemic. “We have it totally under control,” Trump tells CNBC.

The White House announces a coronavirus task force, which is led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and is being coordinated through the National Security Council.

Trump tweets that the experts are “on top of” the US response to coronavirus.

The Trump administration declares a public health emergency in the United States because of the coronavirus and blocks most foreigners who visited China from entering the country.

Of the virus, Trump claims, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

At the State of the Union the President spends a mere 20 seconds out of his 78-minute speech addressing the coronavirus.

The Senate votes to acquit Trump on both charges of impeachment.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces that coronavirus test kits have started being shipped to qualified state labs across the country.

Trump acknowledges that the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu, after speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier that day.

At a political rally in New Hampshire, Trump says, “By April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, (the coronavirus) miraculously goes away,” though public health experts say it’s too early to know how the weather will impact the virus.

Trump tweets, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”

Trump says that doctors should treat this like the flu, which he claims has an even higher fatality ratio based on the numbers so far. He also says that “the risk to the American people remains very low.”

Health officials in Washington state announce the first coronavirus death inside the United States as the total number of confirmed and presumptive positive coronavirus cases in the US reaches 69, according to the CDC.

Trump says “healthy individuals should be able to fully recover,” while acknowledging that additional cases of coronavirus in the US “are likely.”

In a primetime Oval Office address, Trump announces travel restrictions against foreign nationals coming to the US from Europe’s Schengen area. He says the risk of coronavirus is “very, very low” for most Americans, on the same day that the World Health Organization declares the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

At a coronavirus task force briefing, Trump declares a national emergency but says “it’s totally unnecessary” for everybody to get tested because the coronavirus “will pass through.”

The number of reported US deaths from coronavirus reaches 100.

Trump admits he wanted to play down the dangers “because I don’t want to create a panic” and acknowledges “it’s not just old people” who are susceptible to the virus.

At the daily coronavirus briefing, Trump said “age is a factor” when it comes to the coronavirus and “children should be in good shape,” that “it’s almost the younger they are, the better they do.”

At the coronavirus task force briefing, the President says the virus is “going away.”

Trump says the coronavirus is “horrible” and “unbelievable.”

New York state has more cases than any country outside of the US.

Trump says “we probably already have the vaccine,” but voiced concerns adding, “You have to test it, so you have to make sure – it kills the virus, but you’ve got to make sure it doesn’t kill the person. Can you imagine? You vaccinate a hundred million people and you find out it’s poison, right?”

At a coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump says, “ultimately, what we want to come up with is a safe vaccine,” but notes that “the vaccines have to be tested, so it takes a longer period of time.”

The US death toll from the coronavirus exceeds the number of US military personnel who died in the Korean War.

Reported US coronavirus cases reach 1 million.

The reported US death toll from the coronavirus hits 65,832, exceeding the number of US military personnel who died in the Vietnam War, Iraq War and War in Afghanistan combined.

Trump claims “children aren’t affected” by the virus.

Trump says he doesn’t remember Robert O’Brien warning in January that the virus would be “the biggest national security threat” of his presidency.

All US states are at least partially reopened.

US death toll from coronavirus exceeds 100,000.

George Floyd dies after a police officer uses his leg to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for nearly eight minutes while arresting him.

In the White House Rose Garden, Trump responds to the nationwide protests over police brutality and claims he’s an “ally of all peaceful protestors.”

Trump says peaceful protesters are “anarchists,” “bad people” and “very dangerous.”

36 states report a rise in new coronavirus cases compared to the previous week.

Trump says “most of the country is headed absolutely away from the virus” and tells Woodward not to worry about it.

The US surpasses 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

Trump says he’d give himself an “A” in terms of the coronavirus response, adding “But the grade is incomplete, and I’ll tell you why. If we come up with the vaccines and therapeutics, then I’ll give myself an A-plus.”

Before a flight to Texas, Trump says, “We’re doing very well on vaccines and very well on therapeutics.”

Trump insists “nothing more could have been done” by him or his administration in response to the pandemic.