For days, there has been a disconnect between Donald Trump’s messaging and the reality facing Americans over the coronavirus.
As the president repeatedly downplayed the risk, cities and states saw the creeping spread of the virus reach further into their lives.
And within the space of a few minutes on Wednesday night, the inevitable combustion happened.
As Trump addressed the nation, shutting down entry for foreign nationals who have recently been in mainland Europe, coronavirus suddenly hit home for millions in the US.
The actor Tom Hanks, the man often referred to as ‘America’s dad’, confirmed that he and his wife Rita Wilson has tested positive for the virus in Australia. The national sense of shock was palpable.
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The NBA, the multi-billion dollar basketball league which is one of America’s greatest exports, announced it was suspending its season after a player tested positive. The wildly-popular college basketball contest known as March Madness said it would be played behind closed doors.
It is impossible to overstate the hold the worlds of Hollywood and professional and college sport have on Americans, and the impact these developments will have on the national psyche.
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Entire school districts are closing, universities switching to online classes only and transport networks are asking staff to take unpaid leave. Mass gatherings are being discouraged, self-isolating is happening.
There is little of American life now left untouched by the fear of the spread of the virus, something that a few days ago Trump said would soon disappear like a “miracle”.
The White House has at least rowed back from Trump’s threat to include goods and cargo in his travel ban, what would have been effectively a blanket trade war. But it will still apply to millions of people, many with business and family ties across the Atlantic.
His address also carried a tone of blame for China and Europe for the escalating crisis of coronavirus.
If he hoped his promise of economic stimulus would reassure the markets, he was to be disappointed – the futures sank after hearing his words.
And George Conway, the mischief-making husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, tweeted: “If he really wants the markets to go up, he should just resign.”
The president’s dramatic change of tone though appears to be a sign that he now recognises the severity of the risk facing the country.
That will be welcomed by those tasked with the response and preparing Americans for the prospect of what might happen next.
There has been a need for leadership and – judging by his address in the setting of the Oval Office – Donald Trump looks like he has got the message.
The question is whether it will be enough.