U.S. President Donald Trump’s pause in holding White House coronavirus briefings only lasted the weekend as officials said he would participate in one on Monday to update Americans on new testing guidelines.
Trump’s advisers have been arguing that the sessions, held nearly every day for more than a month, had begun to show him in an unfavorable light, particularly after a Thursday news conference at which he asked his health experts whether disinfectants that kill the virus on surfaces might be a used in patients as a treatment.
Some Republicans fear Trump is doing his re-election prospects more harm than good with sessions that often turn into harangues against reporters, and have watched his job approval numbers drop at a time when they should be gaining steam.
The White House announced on Monday morning that Monday’s session was canceled, only to reverse course hours later and put the briefing back on Trump’s schedule.
Aides said Trump wanted to talk about new coronavirus testing guidelines, as the administration tries to fill a need demanded by governors for broader testing for the virus as states move toward reopening their economies.
Senior administration officials said the federal government is sending to states enough swabs and related equipment to cover their entire testing objectives for the months of May and June.
“We’ll be doing many more tests in May and June than we’ve done cumulatively to date,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Trump’s advisers inside and outside the White House have been urging him to scale back his participation in the briefings, arguing it would make him look more in command by appearing in fewer.
White House officials said the briefings will shift more toward the economic reopening phase in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
Republicans increasingly see restoring economic growth in June, July and August as critical to improving Trump’s re-election prospects in November.
The weekend pause in the briefings followed the Republican president’s musings on Thursday about the potential use of disinfectants as a treatment for COVID-19, the illness caused by the highly contagious new coronavirus.
An international chorus of doctors, health experts and manufacturers of the products urged people not to drink or inject disinfectant.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters the briefings might have a new look and a new focus.
“But I would not read into that anything that said we see them as negative because in fact we think that they have been a very positive, helpful opportunity for the president to speak to the American people,” she said outside the White House.
The briefings, which can often stretch to two hours, have featured U.S. health experts who give updates on the federal government’s efforts to fight the outbreak that has killed more than 54,000 Americans.
In more recent weeks, they have also become a platform for Trump to put forth his own theories on the coronavirus and potential cures, or to attack his political enemies.