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Trump Talks About Coronavirus Vaccine

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump has been unusually silent since he lost the election. It's been more than a week since he's spoken publicly.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today that silence was broken. And while he did not concede that Joe Biden has won the election, he did give a strong hint that he knows it's a possibility. Here he is talking about whether we'll see shutdowns due to surging cases of the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Ideally, we won't go to a lockdown. I will not go. This administration will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully, the - whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell.

SHAPIRO: The president gave an update on his administration's efforts to hurry along a vaccine for the coronavirus - what's known as Operation Warp Speed. Joining us from the White House is NPR's Franco Ordoñez.

Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What did President Trump say about the election beyond what we just heard?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, he didn't talk about the election. He didn't even take any questions. But he did have that slip - the one that you played where he caught himself before acknowledging for, you know, frankly, the first time that he may not have won this election. As we know, his campaign is continuing to fight the results. We've been talking about that all week. And for now, that seems to be the strategy - to fight - even though it's frankly impossible, really, to see how he can make up the shortfall in his loss to Biden.

So basically, Ari, no concession yet and no sign of when that could happen.

SHAPIRO: All right. Well, turning to the pandemic, the last time the president spoke at length about the virus on the campaign trail, he was complaining about the focus on COVID-19. And since then, cases and hospitalizations have spiked. How did he address this today?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. He continues to say the surging numbers are because of lots of testing. And we know that's just not true. He focused on Operation Warp Speed, his effort to push forward vaccine development. And he gave a very optimistic message on how quickly people can get vaccinated. You know, President Trump also took the opportunity to slam New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has expressed concern about the vaccine.

The president did say, though, that the federal government has hospital beds ready to share with states. But he also suggested that those may not be needed.

SHAPIRO: Which runs counter to what we've been hearing from hospitals around the country on this program. Just before the president spoke, President-elect Biden issued a statement - kind of a prebuttal. What did he say?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, Biden said he met with his own COVID advisers for a briefing, and they talked about the alarming increase in cases. He's at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. He noted that it is still going to be many months before a lot of Americans get this vaccine and that urgent action is needed now. He said, quote, "this crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking." Biden also called out for resources for hospitals and better distribution for tests and treatments.

SHAPIRO: Help us understand the White House strategy here because there was good news about a vaccine on Monday, when Pfizer announced the results looked good for its vaccine. Why did Trump take a week to talk about it?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, Trump complained on Twitter that, you know, the news didn't come ahead of his election. And he baselessly accused the FDA and the company of dragging their feet for political reasons. But today, the head scientist of Operation Warp Speed made it very clear in his remarks at the Rose Garden that there was no political interference in vaccine development or approvals.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thanks, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.