WASHINGTON -- As Americans were doing their best to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump was sending mixed messages this past week.
As the week began, Trump was telling the country to just "relax" and stop its panic-buying at grocery stores and other businesses. "We're doing great. It will all pass," he said.
His observation came when confirmed cases leaped by nearly a third to 2,900 in the space of a mere 24 hours. Yet his administration was doing "a fantastic job," Trump said.
That's not how Wall Street and Washington officialdom were interpreting the coronavirus panic.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by almost 13 percent. And the Supreme Court announced, in a rare move, that it was postponing scheduled oral arguments through April.
In a blistering, front-page critique in The Washington Post earlier this week, detailing how Trump was handling the crisis, Philip Rucker pointed out how Trump "for weeks dismissed the danger of the novel coronavirus."
"He distracted himself by stoking unrelated feuds and nursing grievances. He shared little concrete information about the spreading pandemic, and much of what he did share was false," Rucker wrote this past Tuesday.
"And then on Monday, nearly eight weeks after the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States, Trump conveyed that he at last recognizes the magnitude of the crisis that is threatening lives across the nation, disrupting the economy and fundamentally upending the daily rhythms of American life," he added.
"The president -- who six days earlier promised 'it will all go away' and as recently as Sunday advised Americans to 'just relax' -- suggested Monday that the outbreak could last until July or August," Rucker wrote.
By the middle of this week, more than 100 Americans across the country died from the highly contagious virus that has killed thousands throughout the world.
Many of the fatalities among the 100 were reportedly people who had "underlying health conditions, making it harder for their bodies to fight off" the COVID-19 infection, the Post reported Wednesday. "Some had diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension or pulmonary ailments."
Notably, most -- about 85 percent -- were "older than 60," and about 45 percent were 80 and older. About one-third of them were living in nursing home facilities.
The impact at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, where 27 of the facility's 120 elderly residents have died, suggests that the elderly are among the most vulnerable.
"I see that as the 'canary in a coal mine' situation," Fred Buckner, a physician at the University of Washington Medical Center, told the Post.
"I suspect it's going to be taking off in other locations just like it is in the Seattle area. There's no reason not to think that. Obviously, that means more deaths," he said.
Medical authorities across the country were taking a brutally realistic view of the deadly, microscopic virus that has swept across the country, seemingly unstoppable in its rampage. Not so in the Trump administration.
"A day after giving a self-congratulatory news conference in which he declared the U.S. government had 'tremendous control' over the pandemic, Trump on Monday appeared chastened by the magnitude of the crisis facing the nation and testing his presidency," the Post reported.
"If you're talking about the virus, that's not under control any place in the world," a dejected Trump said Monday. He described the virus as "an invisible enemy" and "a very bad one" that would likely attack our country until August or longer.
Trump's meandering news conferences this week were in sharp contrast to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's daily, take-charge orders to New Yorkers.
Cuomo has issued mandatory work-density restrictions to help control the spread of the coronavirus, closed the indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys, and appealed for help from the federal government to increase needed hospital beds.
Working in conjunction with the governors of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, all businesses will now be required to have 50 percent of their work force working from home, except for essential services.
"We're fighting the same war, and this is a war, and we're in the same trench," Cuomo said he told Trump.