President Donald Trump repeatedly contradicted congressional testimony from Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday, casting doubt on the expert’s timing for a vaccine and on the effectiveness of masks.
In a White House press conference with reporters, Trump insisted he thought Redfield “made a mistake” when he told Congress on Wednesday that a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available until the second or third quarter of next year. Redfield testified that a coronavirus vaccine would be “generally available to the American public” in the “late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
But Trump, without stating his rationale for contradicting the CDC director, told reporters Wednesday that Redfield had erred.
“No, I think he made a mistake when he said that,” Trump said of Redfield’s testimony.
“I believe he was confused,” the president added, although Redfield appeared confident in his assessment.
Scott Atlas, the controversial doctor advising the president on coronavirus, told reporters that the administration can help distribute 700 million vaccines by the end of the first quarter, which would be by the end of March 2021, and vaccines would be available for vulnerable elderly populations by January.
The president also bashed Redfield over his claim that masks are effective. In his congressional testimony, Redfield said a mask could be even more effective in fighting against the virus than a vaccine for someone who doesn’t build an immunity response from the vaccine.
“This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine,” Redfield said while showing his mask. “… If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me. This face mask will.”
The president suggested Redfield was wrong on that, too. Trump said he hopes masks help and they “probably do,” but some people “feel that masks have problems.”
Trump also said the death toll would have been much higher without mitigation measures, and claimed the death toll wouldn’t be so bad if states governed by Democrats —”blue states” — were subtracted from the equation.
The president also cast doubt on the effectiveness of masks Tuesday night during a town hall hosted by ABC News, claiming some people don’t like them. Pressed on who those people are, the president responded, “Waiters.”
Redfield responded to a request for comment following the president’s press conference with the following statement, which did not address the president’s claims:
“I 100% believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. “A COVID-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life. The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds.”