The result is chaotic. Leaders from Maine to Oregon and from Dayton, Ohio, to Austin, Texas, say their constituents are whipsawed by the contradictory messages emanating each day from the presidential lectern, which exacerbates efforts on the ground to enforce social distancing and mitigate the spread.

“People are confused about whether this is really serious. People are confused about how long this may last,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, said. “We’re trying to get as much containment as we can by limiting the number of physical interactions taking place, but they’re hearing it’s not a big deal, it’s going to be over soon, and getting community buy-in becomes a harder thing to achieve.”

Due to Trump’s pinballing statements, Americans have been subject to a parade of claims and musings about medicine, a topic about which past presidents have avoided speculating in deference to the Food and Drug Administration’s official role addressing safety and efficacy matters.

“He at times just says whatever comes to mind or tweets, then someone on TV is saying the opposite,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said recently. “It’s critically important that the message is straightforward and fact-based for the public.”