Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Never has President Trump looked and sounded so somber and downbeat as he did at dinnertime yesterday as he walked America through the "very, very painful" days of death ahead. 

Why it matters ... It was a moment the history books won’t forget: Trump, who a week ago was talking about an Easter-time return to work, warned in grim detail of the potential for 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.

  • Gone was the wishful thinking and market-soothing spin. It was a raw, reality-based reminder the worst is soon to come. 

"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," Trump said before introducing his medical experts at the 2 hour, 12 minute briefing.

  • "We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks. And then hopefully, as the experts are predicting — as I think a lot of us are predicting, after having studied it so hard — you’re going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel."
  • "But this is going to be a very painful — very, very painful two weeks."

Between the lines: Trump, without digressions to points conservative skeptics have been pushing on him, handed the podium to his top medical advisers — Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx — and stood in front of their grim graphics.

  • The data projects that the virus could kill 100,000 to 240,000 Americans — even with current social-distancing guidelines .
  • Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said estimates showed between 1.5 million to 2.5 million Americans could have died from the virus "without mitigation."
  • More than 3,900 people with the virus have died in the U.S., "a figure that has more than tripled since Thursday morning," per the N.Y. Times.

Turning to his personal perspective, Trump said: "When you look and see at night [on TV] the kind of death that’s been caused by this invisible enemy, it's incredible. I was watching last night, Gov. [Phil] Murphy of New Jersey say '29 people died today,' meaning yesterday, and others [New York] talking about numbers far greater."

  • "I spoke to some of my friends — they can't believe what they're seeing."
  • Referring to scenes he had seen on TV that morning of doctors and nurses going into the hospital where he grew up in Elmhurst, Queens, Trump said: "It's like military people going into battle, going into war."

Go deeper: Washington and California offer beacons of coronavirus hope

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests
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In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.

3 hours ago - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing" and the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus for the achievement, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China