As the crippling crisis turns toward a third season, an alternate reality is taking shape inside the White House even in the face of spiking case counts, long lags in test processing and a Covid-19 death toll that regularly tops 1,000 Americans a day. Trump aides are growing confident about what they see as measurable progress: new therapeutic measures, delivery of health recommendations tailored to individual states, extensive support for vaccine development and steps to ensure hospitals have enough protective equipment and ventilators.

Officials internally are also pleased with two changes from Trump himself: the president wearing a mask at times, after avoiding the preventive measure for months, and his resumption of near-daily press briefings, which they feel show Trump is attuned to the crisis and driving the response despite the wide-ranging nature of the events.

One former senior administration official said the White House is attempting to convey the perception of control — even as a handful of top aides including chief of staff Mark Meadows express skepticism privately about guidance from the government’s leading scientists. A key goal is to demonstrate they’re once again on top of Americans’ No. 1 concern, after first pushing states to reopen before they met the government’s own benchmarks and then downplaying the worsening spread of the virus for months.