WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump, under fire over his administration’s response to the surging coronavirus, said on Monday he will resume holding news briefings on the pandemic after a lengthy hiatus.
He told reporters in the Oval Office the resumption was prompted by a “big flareup in Florida, Texas, a couple of other places.” The virus has killed 140,000 Americans and infected some 3.7 million, both figures leading the world.
White House debate has centered on whether Trump should risk doing daily briefings after he was mocked for musing that people might inject household disinfectants as a way to protect themselves from contracting the virus.
The briefings ended in early May after the new White House of chief staff, Mark Meadows, sought a new focus for the president’s messaging on the subject.
In the weeks since, the Republican Trump has received negative reviews and fallen in opinion polls for a seemingly hands-off approach to the pandemic. He has lost ground to Democrat Joe Biden, his presumptive rival in the Nov. 3 election.
Last Friday Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters she favored a return of the briefings, which she said had bolstered his approval ratings.
White House advisers say Trump’s daily appearances could put pressure on Biden, who has limited his campaign appearances amid the country’s struggle to control the pandemic.
Trump said he expected the first new briefing would take place about 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Tuesday.
“We’re going to give you a lot of briefings over the next week and the next few weeks,” he said.
He said he would bring in the heads of some companies involved in the search for vaccines and other treatments for the virus, such as Johnson & Johnson.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller