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Trump wages Twitter fights in midst of virus crisis

FILE: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters during a meeting with president of the Republic of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, in the Oval Office at the White House on Feb. 12, 2020 in Washington. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump used Twitter to air his grievances and boasts Wednesday even as he announced new steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Moments before telling the country that the U.S. and Canada had decided to temporarily close the world’s longest border to non-essential traffic, Trump was tweeting about his approval rating and bashing the news media that his administration is relying on to share its warnings about the virus.

“I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning,” Trump tweeted, despite his record of playing down the threat for weeks. “The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!”

It was a jarring contrast even for a president well-practiced in preaching unity in one breath and pummeling his political rivals in another.

As he needled Democrats, Trump tried to assure those who are now out of work as hotels, bars, restaurants and other gathering spots close that, “money will soon be coming to you. The onslaught of the Chinese Virus is not your fault! Will be stronger than ever!”

Asked Tuesday whether he would consider laying off the insults during a national emergency, Trump said that he would continue to respond “if they’re not going to play fair. ”

“I want it to be bipartisan and nobody’s going to be better than me.,” he added. “But when they attack me or the people — these incredible people behind me — I’m not going to let them get away with that. I can’t do that.”

Since the virus has spread, Trump and his top aides have stepped up their criticism of China, noting consistently that the outbreak was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. They have referred to the virus as the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chinese virus” on multiple occasions, disregarding World Health Organization terminology that avoids identifying it by geography.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, like pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.