Trump changed his tone on coronavirus after seeing Joe Biden take charge on outbreak: report
Donald Trump and Joe Biden (AFP/File)

President Donald Trump drew praise for his sober assessment Monday of the coronavirus outbreak -- in stark contrast to his tone earlier this month.

Trump previously dismissed the virus as a "hoax" pushed by the media and Democrats to undermine his presidency, but the Associated Press reported that he has come to understand that the outbreak posed a threat to his re-election.

The president and his advisers are beginning to realize the COVID-19 outbreak will be a significant election issue, and Trump was prompted by one of his Democratic rivals to take the situation more seriously.

"Trump has told advisers that he now believes the virus will be a significant general election issue and he took note of the clear-eyed, somber tone used by his likely general election foe, Joe Biden, in Sunday’s Democratic debate," the AP reported.

Trump has also received a series of sobering briefings in the past few days that paint a grim picture of the public health crisis -- which could wind up killing up to 2 million Americans.

The president has seen the White House take dramatic precautions to prevent contact with possibly infected individuals, and his press secretary Stephanie Grisham and outgoing acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney have isolated themselves at home after coming into contact with coronavirus patients.