WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump is predicting a COVID-19 vaccine might be ready by this year's election, less than 90 days away.
"I'm optimistic that it'll probably be around that date," Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn on Thursday.
"It wouldn't hurt" his reelection chances to have the vaccine available by the November 3 election, acknowledged the president. "I'm doing it not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives."
The scientific community, including prominent infectious disease experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is member of the White House coronavirus task force, however, expects that none of the numerous vaccine candidates now undergoing human trials will be ready until the end of the year or early 2021.
Fauci Predicts Millions of Doses of COVID Vaccine Could Be Available by Early 2021 But top US infectious disease expert says coronavirus will never be totally eradicated
Trump spoke about the vaccine and the therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 patients as he departed for the critical election swing state of Ohio, where polls show him in a virtual tie with the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.
"We're going to win bigger in Ohio than we did four years ago," predicted Trump, speaking to a group of supporters on arrival in Cleveland on Thursday.
"He's against God. He's against guns," Trump said of Biden. "I don't think he's going to do well in Ohio."
No Republican candidate has ever won the presidential election, or reelection, without taking Ohio. Trump, in 2016, captured nearly 52% of the vote in the state against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump's standing in Ohio and other key states this year has been hurt by unfavorable public perception of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
At Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland, the president had been scheduled to be greeted on the tarmac by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. However, just prior to Trump's departure from Washington, the governor's office announced that DeWine had tested positive for the coronavirus following standard protocol testing ahead of meeting the president.
"Governor DeWine is returning to Columbus [the state capital] where he and First Lady Fran DeWine, who also has no symptoms, will both be tested," according to a news release from the governor's office, which said the couple will then quarantine at home in Cedarville for the next 14 days.
DeWine becomes one of the highest-profile American politicians and only the second governor (after Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma) to test positive for the coronavirus.
The governor's infection sounds a sour note for the president's visit, which was to underscore his administration's gains against the coronavirus, and economic prosperity.
Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, who also took a COVID-19 test Thursday but had a negative result, stood in for the governor to greet Trump.
DeWine, in late July, issued a statewide mask mandate after previously reversing course on the idea in April.
Breaking ranks with other Republican governors, DeWine was one of the first state leaders to take steps to slow the spread of the virus, including promoting wearing of masks and social distancing.
Ohio has reported nearly 100,000 COVID-19 cases and about 3,600 deaths.