U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday restarted his coronavirus briefings by warning about a surge in U.S. cases but seeking to reassure Americans that his administration has the crisis under control.

“We will defeat the virus,” Trump said. But he added: “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”

Trump took a notably more reserved tone than in past briefings, warning that things would likely get worse before they got better and encouraging Americans to wear masks and avoid risky behaviors. “We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings,” he said. “Be safe and be smart.”

Trump appeared in the White House briefing room after many voters said they’ve lost confidence in his handling of the growing crisis, he repeatedly spread misinformation and the economy slipped into a virus-induced recession.

The president trails Democratic rival Joe Biden by 8 points according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling averages. A Fox News poll released over the weekend showed Biden with a 17-point advantage when respondents were asked whom they trusted more to handle the coronavirus.

The coronavirus has killed more than 140,000 Americans and cases have been rising rapidly -- particularly in the southern U.S., where governors hurried to reopen their economies after initially urging residents to stay home and take other steps to slow the spread of the virus.

‘Better Than Most’

“We’ve done much better than most,” Trump said. “We’ve learned a lot about this disease and how to handle it.”

The president’s poll numbers prompted some within the White House, including senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, to argue that Trump should restart the evening appearances before the media. Those sessions, which typically included top administration health officials, were a mainstay in March and April when polls showed the public was more supportive of Trump’s handling of the crisis.

Yet Trump’s appearances also led to high-profile embarrassments and reversals, most notably the time he asked government scientists about the possibility of injecting humans with disinfectant to cure the virus. He’d also told Americans in the briefings that he wanted to reopen the nation by the Easter holiday, and repeatedly touted unproven cures like hydroxychloroquine.

And while the president has not held regular press briefings since discontinuing them in late April, he has continued to generate controversy when discussing the pandemic. On July 4, Trump falsely declared that 99 per cent of virus cases were “totally harmless.” And in recent interviews, Trump has dismissed warnings from top federal infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci over the severity of the pandemic.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said earlier Tuesday that Trump is “the right person to give information to the American people” about the disease because he had been “a leader” on the issue.

“And boy, does he get the information to a lot of the American people during his briefings, as noted by the ratings,” she said.

Briefing Viewers

An average of 8.5 million Americans watched the briefings on cable news during their height, according to the New York Times.

In an interview earlier in the day with Fox News, she said Trump’s appearances would be “most days” but “maybe not all days” and that he “does generally plan on taking questions.” She also indicated that the president planned to keep the sessions “short,” which would be a change from the earlier marathon briefings.

Trump has said he hopes to use the latest round of press conferences to tout advances that U.S. pharmaceutical companies are making toward therapeutics and a vaccine for the virus. Optimism over that progress has buoyed markets despite the U.S. tallying more than 3.7 million cases -- the most reported by any country -- of the approximately 14.5 million worldwide.