The Latest: Trump contradicts CDC director on vaccine, masks

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – The Latest on the 2020 presidential campaign (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

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President Donald Trump is contradicting the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the potential availability of a coronavirus vaccine to the general public and on mask wearing.

Trump said Wednesday that a vaccine will be available as early as October and in mass distribution soon afterward — much sooner than was projected in congressional testimony earlier in the day by Dr. Robert Redfield.

Trump says Redfield “made a mistake” when he told lawmakers that any vaccine available in November or December would be in “very limited supply,” and reserved for first responders and people most vulnerable to COVID-19. Redfield estimated the shot wouldn’t be broadly available until the spring or summer of 2021.

After Trump’s comments, CDC officials claimed Redfield thought he was answering a question about when vaccination of all Americans will be completed.

Trump also disagreed with Redfield about the effectiveness of protective masks, which Redfield had said could be even more helpful in combating the coronavirus than a vaccine.



President Donald Trump on Wednesday openly contradicted his government’s top health experts by predicting that a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus could be ready as early as next month and in mass distribution soon after. He called the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “confused” for projecting a longer time frame. Meanwhile, his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, said in Delaware that he trusts what scientists say about a potential coronavirus vaccine but does not trust Trump.

Read more:

— Trump disputes health officials, sees mass vaccinations soon

— Biden says he trusts vaccines and scientists, not Trump

— Politics creates economic illusion in Houdini’s hometown

Takeaways: Trump’s town hall offered preview of debates



4:35 p.m.

Nevada’s Democratic governor has sent a letter to the White House and the coronavirus task force asking for an explanation on the president’s decision to hold rallies in the state last weekend during a pandemic.

Gov. Steve Sisolak sent a letter Wednesday to Vice President Mike Pence after Trump held two rallies in Nevada flouting the state’s coronavirus limits on gatherings. Sisolak is seeking “some clarity and explanation” from the task force about why the president’s campaign “knowingly packed thousands of people into two venues to hold public gatherings that are categorized as ‘high risk.’”

In the letter, released by the governor’s office, Sisolak said, “You can imagine my confusion and utter disbelief over the contradictory and dismissive behavior demonstrated by the president.” He says the president’s behavior is an insult to Nevadans who have sacrificed life events like graduation ceremonies, weddings and funerals in the name of public health.

Sisolak wrote: “I am beyond frustrated at the lack of clear, concise and consistent messaging from the President on how to behave during this public health crisis.”


4:20 p.m.

Joe Biden says that while he trusts what scientists say about a potential coronavirus vaccine, he doesn’t trust President Donald Trump.

Biden spoke to reporters at an event Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware, after being briefed by public health experts about a potential vaccine. He mentioned what he called Trump’s “incompetence and dishonesty” surrounding the distribution of personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing. Biden says, “We can’t afford to repeat those fiascos when it comes to a vaccine.”

He went on to say: “I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t, either.”

The Trump campaign has accused Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, of sowing doubt about a potential vaccine by expressing concerns that politics count taint the approval process.

Asked whether his comments could undermine public trust in scientists, Biden said the vaccine approval process should be “totally transparent” and it should be evaluated by a “board of scientists” that could give the public an unbiased opinion.


3:30 p.m.

The spouses of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in New Hampshire speaking about the importance of the Affordable Care Act.

Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff arrived at the Bedford home of a supporter on Wednesday afternoon, speaking outside a gray barn. The audience consisted only of the homeowners, other speakers, a few reporters and campaign staff.

They were introduced by Dr. Susan Lynch, a retired physician and former first lady of New Hampshire. Her husband, former Gov. John Lynch, was governor when the Affordable Care Act was enacted under President Barack Obama.

Emhoff, referring to President Donald Trump’s town hall Tuesday night, said the president had no explanation for how he’d protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

He says: “The truth is he has no plan and he never will.”

Jill Biden told the story of her sister’s cancer treatment, saying the Affordable Care Act saved her life.


3:10 p.m.

A prominent Republican donor who supports President Donald Trump says some in Trump’s orbit are worried he’s “overconfident” on the upcoming debates against Democrat Joe Biden.

Dan Eberhart says Trump came off as a “little coarse” when confronted by undecided voters at Tuesday’s town hall in Philadelphia.

Face-to-face with everyday voters for the first time in months, Trump was defensive but resisted agitation as he was pressed on his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and why he doesn’t more aggressively promote the use of masks to reduce the spread of the disease.

Eberhart says, “Frankly, I expected President Trump to be better prepared to cajole undecided voters over to his side of the fence at the town hall.” He adds: “President Trump seemed unaware that he needed to downshift his rhetoric to something more moderate being as how his audience was undecided voters and not attendees of one of his rallies.”

Biden said Tuesday that he’s begun preparing for presidential debates that begin later this month by studying Trump’s past comments.


2:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump's campaign is accusing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris of seeking to undermine public confidence in a coronavirus vaccine.

On a call for reporters Wednesday hosted by the campaign, Trump surrogate and Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup said that when it comes to the economy and the coronavirus, Biden has “proven he wants to root against American prosperity for his own political gain.” Wenstrup says the Democratic presidential ticket is “playing politics with people’s lives.”

Biden has said he would take a vaccine “tomorrow” if it were available, but he would want to “see what the scientists said” first. Harris says she wouldn’t trust Trump on the safety of any potential vaccine and worried that health experts and scientists would be “muzzled” by the president because of his urgency to get a vaccine approved by his stated goal of Election Day.

Trump said Tuesday night that a vaccine could be ready within four weeks, a more optimistic timeline than that laid out by other public health experts and government officials. He also suggested, without proof, that the coronavirus pandemic “would go away without the vaccine.”


12:40 p.m.

Joe Biden is receiving a virtual briefing from a former U.S. surgeon general and a collection of health experts on how best to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden’s campaign created a virtual studio that connected the former vice president via video with former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and six other experts at a theater in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Biden will give a speech on the topic later in the day.

David Kessler, board chair and director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stressed for Biden the importance of requirements increasing “universal masking” but also increased testing and contact tracing. He suggested doing so could save thousands of lives and ultimately be more effective between now and early next year as vaccines are being developed.

Others on the briefing endorsed a national requirement to wear masks, given the country’s “porous borders” and rules that vary from state to state. They also said that when some areas have moved to reopen shuttered bars and restaurants, virus outbreaks have often followed — suggesting that officials should encourage people to remain outside during relatively mid-fall weather and allow for returns to such establishments later.