As coronavirus cases surge across the American South and West, President Donald Trump on Monday said he had decided to bring back the White House coronavirus briefings he stopped amid widespread criticism, including leading them himself, likely starting Tuesday at 5pm ET.
"Well, we had very successful briefings," Trump told reporters at an Oval Office photo op, when asked to clarify if the briefings were returning as polls showed sinking approval ratings for how he's handled the crisis.
"I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television -- television, there's never been anything like it. And we were doing very well, and I thought it would be sort of, automatic and a lot of positive things were happening and frankly, a lot of the country is doing well," he said.
Notably, the president had been criticized by members of his own party for holding the free-wheeling sessions, some close to two hours long, during which he frequently touted misinformation and falsehoods.
The announcement comes on the heels of poor polling numbers.
Americans, by nearly a two-to-one margin, distrust what President Trump says about the pandemic, and six in 10 in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll disapprove of how he’s handling it, up steeply since the early days of the outbreak.
Polls also show a minority of Americans currently trust him when it comes to COVID-19 compared to the nation's health experts.
Trump said that while -- in his view -- "a lot of the country is doing well" -- he acknowledged "this big flare-up in Florida, Texas, couple of other places."
"So, I think what we're going to do is I'll get involved and we'll start doing briefings," he said. "Whether it's this afternoon or tomorrow, probably tomorrow, and I will do briefings. And part of the briefing I think much more so than last time, because last time we were nowhere with vaccines or therapeutics and let's say that ended six weeks ago. We'll start them again and I think it's a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics, and generally speaking, where we are."
"I think we will start that probably starting tomorrow," he added. "I'll do it at five o'clock like we were doing."
He said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany would continue briefing periodically at an earlier time.
"I'll be discussing the, as I call it, the China virus, the China plague. I'll be discussing it and I'll also be discussing perhaps some other things," he added.
At the end of April, after Trump discussed injecting disinfectants into the body to treat COVID-19, the once daily, public task force briefings started to wind down.
In May, the White House announced plans to dismantle the task force around Memorial Day but reversed them one day later, with Trump saying he had "no idea" that the "respected" task force was so popular.
Around this time, Trump stopped meeting with the task force, according to the nation's top expert on infectious diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told the Financial Times in July that he had not briefed the president on the pandemic for two months.
After a two-month hiatus from public briefings, though the group was still meeting but drastically scaled back, the task force held its first public briefing on June 26 led by Vice President Mike Pence. President Trump was not in attendance.
The coronavirus task force held another briefing on July 8 to discuss reopening schools, a favored topic of the president, but once again, Trump was not in attendance.