But earlier this week, with the elderly most at risk from COVID-19, he dismissed some of the deceased as "very old, almost dead" and sought to frame the ever-rising fatality count as evidence of a successful government response, arguing that "millions" more would have perished had the government not mobilized at all.
Critics have lambasted his administration's response as slow, callous and incompetent. And new estimates by Columbia University researchers concluded that social distancing orders even a week earlier in March would have saved 36,000 lives, or more than a third of the fatalities so far.
Polls show clear divisions in the way Americans experience the virus and view its grim impact -- cutting along race, geography and especially political party.
"Very few people knew anyone who died on 9/11, but it was not 'those people,'" said Cornell Belcher, a pollster who worked for President Obama and other Democrats. "It was all of us."
"That's not happening this time around," he said. "There are two sides driving their own narratives."
Black, Latino and other racial and ethnic minority groups have been hit especially hard by the virus, partly due to greater likelihood of preexisting medical conditions and lower access to healthcare, especially in poor communities.
The deaths have been highest in Democratic-leaning coastal states like California and New York, and crowded urban centers like Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans, where hospitals were initially overwhelmed. Most have seen a dramatic drop in admissions in recent days.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, a poll this week by the Economist/You Gov showed blacks were nearly three times more likely to know someone who has died from COVID-19 than whites. A CNN poll found that self-identified liberals were more likely (47%) to know someone who has the virus than self-identified conservatives (34%).
While the contagion has spread to more rural, more conservative areas, many of those stricken so far are immigrants who work in meatpacking plants, inmates in prisons and residents in nursing homes and other elder-care facilities. Many cannot vote.
Democrats have tried to draw attention to the deaths and in some case use them as a political cudgel against Trump in the presidential race.