"Well, I think with the president's comments today, he recognized the mistakes he has made by now embracing mask-wearing and the recognition this is not a hoax. It is a pandemic that has gotten worse before it will get better because of his inaction," Pelosi said on CNN's "The Situation Room."
"In fact, clearly, it is the Trump virus," Pelosi added, reiterating the phrase later in the interview as well.
The Democratic leader was responding to the president's briefing at the White House earlier Tuesday in which he praised the use of face masks and urged Americans to wash their hands and practice physical distancing to stem the spread of the disease.
During the briefing — the president's first coronavirus-focused White House briefing in nearly three months — Trump also warned that the outbreak in the US will "get worse before it gets better" amid surges in parts of the country.
"If he had said months ago, let's wear masks, let’s not — let’s socially distance instead of having rallies and whatever they were, then more people would have followed his lead," Pelosi argued on CNN. "He's the president of the United States."
Pressed by CNN host Wolf Blitzer on whether she was asserting that thousands of Americans had died because of the president’s response, Pelosi responded, “Yes, that's what I am saying. I think it's clearly evident.”
The comments mark one of the strongest rebukes yet of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which Democrats maintain could have been more aggressively dealt with by the White House.
The criticism, which centers around Trump’s early reluctance to wear a mask and barbs from some White House aides directed at health officials such as Anthony Fauci, has been amplified amid a spike in coronavirus cases across the country, particularly in the South and West.
“We’re approaching 4 million. We’re approaching 4 million people infected, people affected by this, infected by it, and a large number, like 140,000, who have passed away. If it's important to wear a mask now. It would have been important to wear it in March instead of telling us that by April we would all be going to church together. I wish that were the case, but he had no scientific basis for that,” Pelosi said, The Hill reported.
“If they don’t return to science and governance — and that’s a way that we can overcome this. We have hope and prayers for a vaccine. God willing that will be soon. But it is still months away, and people will die. So let's hope that the president comes closer to embracing the reality of this pandemic, this Trump virus.”
In apparent recognition of the burgeoning health crisis, Trump has expressed more openness to masks, posting a picture on Twitter of him wearing one and urging Americans to more strictly adhere to health guidance from federal officials.
“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” Trump said Tuesday.
“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask,” he added. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They’ll have an effect, and we need everything we can get.”