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Trump disputes CDC director on vaccine rollout, blames high coronavirus death toll on ‘blue states’

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By Connor Smith

President Donald Trump discussed his administration’s plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible during Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing, and disputed earlier comments from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

“As soon as it’s announced, we’ll be able to start,” Trump said. “That’ll be from mid-October on — maybe a little bit later than that. We’ll be all set so as soon as it’s given the go-ahead — they’re doing trials, as you know — so as soon as it’s given the go-ahead, we will get it out, defeat the virus.”

Trump suggested Redfield had been confused in his Senate testimony or had misunderstood the questions asked.

Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, also discussed the plan, noting he expects that 700 million doses will be available by the end of March.

Earlier Wednesday, Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Congress under oath that a vaccine may not be available to the general public until well into next year . Redfield also said a face mask could be “more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.” 

Redfield subsequently tweeted that it is, in fact, a vaccine that will do the most to restore “normal life” and that he “100% believe[s] in the importance of vaccines.”

Trump contradicted the statement and later mocked Joe Biden for often wearing a mask in public. When asked about Redfield’s comments, Trump claimed he was misunderstanding questions. “I believe he was confused,” Trump said.

When asked about Oracle’s /zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL +0.58% potential deal with ByteDance for a stake in TikTok’s U.S. operations, Trump said he will be briefed on studies of the deal on Thursday. He said he “conceptually” wouldn’t like it if ByteDance maintained a majority stake, “assuming that ByteDance is China, which I think it is.”

Giving an update on COVID-19, Trump noted the national test positivity rate has fallen below 5%, while the number of hospitalized patients has declined 43% from mid-July.

The president tried to pin the blame for total COVID-19 deaths on “blue states,” arguing if you take out such areas — which include many of the largest cities by population, such as New York and Los Angeles — the death count would be far lower. He again urged Democratic governors to reopen their states.

Trump also congratulated the Big Ten conference for walking back its decision to postpone the fall football season , and pushed for the Pacific-12 Conference to follow suit.

“We started putting a lot of pressure on, frankly, because there was no reason not for it to come back,” Trump said.

One Big Ten university president on the decision-making panel said Trump’s pressure had had no bearing and could only have been a negative , as the administrators wanted to be certain to avoid the appearance of having been swayed by politics.

Penn State, among the schools in the Big Ten conference, said the total number of COVID-19 cases at its University Park, Pa., campus hit 1,146 on Tuesday.

Trump began the briefing outlining the government’s response to Hurricane Sally .

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