“So let me be clear. I trust vaccines. I trust the scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Mr. Biden said. “And at this moment, the American people can’t either.”
The president’s defiance of public health guidelines led to a sour moment on Wednesday with one of the United States’ closest allies overseas. Israeli Health Ministry officials watching an Arab-Israeli ceremony this week at the White House on television grew angry at the lack of masks and social distancing, and they ordered Israeli reporters returning from Washington to quarantine. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was spotted at the event without a mask, coughing while talking with the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
A day after the ceremony, which drew together hundreds of people on the South Lawn, a Trump administration official tested at the White House was confirmed positive for the coronavirus, according to a person familiar with the events. The official, who was not publicly identified, was not present for the ceremony, and officials began tracing the person’s contacts to try to stop any further spread.
The political fallout related to the virus claimed another Trump administration official on Wednesday when Michael R. Caputo, a political ally of the president’s installed at the Department of Health and Human Services, took a leave of absence after a conspiracy-filled rant about federal scientists plotting “sedition” against Mr. Trump. Mr. Caputo’s science adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, will also be leaving the department.
Even before his bizarre and incendiary Facebook outburst this week, Mr. Caputo had come under fire for trying to water down C.D.C. reports about the pandemic. Critics, including some within the administration, complained that he was promoting the president’s political interests over public health.
The president’s clash with Dr. Redfield exacerbated the appearance that he was pressuring scientists to defer to his rosy view of the crisis that continues to kill roughly 1,000 Americans a day.
At his Senate hearing, Dr. Redfield said that vaccines currently in trials may be available in November or December, but only a “very limited supply” at first that would go initially to health care workers and the most vulnerable Americans. Such a vaccine, he said, would not be widely distributed until next summer or later, echoing recent comments by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist.