Trump’s comments came despite America having the highest number of infections and deaths in the world, with successive polls showing widespread disapproval over his mishandling of the crisis.
More than 152,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 in the US, while hospitalisations continue to rise. More than 1400 coronavirus-related deaths were reported nationwide on Thursday, US time — roughly one fatality for every minute.
Florida alone, which has a population of about 22 million, set a single-day record for coronavirus-related deaths for a third day in a row on Thursday, recording 253 new deaths and just under 10,000 new cases. Statewide, 6585 residents have died after contracting the virus.
By comparison, Australia, with a population of almost 25 million, recorded 14 deaths and 747 new cases by Thursday night, driven mostly by Victoria’s spike in infections. Friday’s numbers were lower with 649 new cases in Victoria and eight deaths. Overall, 196 people in Australia have died from the virus.
The President’s observations also came after it was announced that his friend, Herman Cain, who had sought the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, died weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.
It is not clear where the 74-year-old contracted the virus. However, Cain was one of several thousand people who attended a Trump campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20, in which most of the crowd did not wear masks.
Cain, who co-chaired Black Voices for Trump, was pictured at the event also not wearing a mask and breaching social restriction guidelines. At a briefing at the White House, Trump paid tribute to Cain as “wonderful man” and “a very special person”.
“I got to know him very well, and unfortunately he passed away from a thing called the China virus,” he said.
On Twitter, opponents of the President, including actress Mia Farrow – a frequent critic – accused him of “killing” Cain by holding the rally, encouraging people to attend and not requiring them to wear a mask.
Farrah Tomazin is a senior journalist based in the US for the 2020 presidential election.