Trump says coronavirus ‘peak in death rate’ likely in 2 weeks, extends social-distancing guidelines through April 30
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Speaking at a contentious White House coronavirus news briefing on Sunday, President Trump declared that “the peak in death rate” in the coronavirus pandemic “is likely to hit in two weeks,” and said the federal government will be extending its social-distancing guidelines through April 30.
“The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks. I will say it again. The peak, the highest point of death rates, remember this, is likely to hit in two weeks… Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,” the president said in the White House Rose Garden.
Saying his earlier hope that the country could reopen by Easter was “just an aspiration,” Trump added: “We can expect that be June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery” and that “a lot of great things will be happening.”
He also noted, “Two of the country’s largest health insurers — Humana and Signa — have announced that they will waive copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for coronavirus treatments.”
In response to a question at the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated his estimate from earlier in the day that it remained possible that 100,000 to 200,000 people could die in the United States. “What we’re trying to do is not let that happen,” he said, calling the extension of social-distancing guidelines “a wise and prudent decision.” Over 2,300 people with the virus already have died in the U.S.
“Models are good, but models often generate the kind of anxious question you asked,” Fauci said, when a reporter asked how bad the situation could become. “A model is as good as the assumptions you put into the model, and very often, many of these assumptions are based on a complexity of issues that aren’t necessarily the same… from one country to another.”
Fauci said the April 30 extension came after he, Dr. Deborah Birx and other members of the task force had made the recommendation.
Trump said he’d seen early estimates that 2.2 million people could have died if the government had done nothing in a worst-case scenario, so “if we can hold that down to 100,000” or less, it would be a “good job.”
Separately, Trump openly questioned why the demand for surgical masks has skyrocketed in New York City and elsewhere, urging assembled reporters that they “oughtta look into it” because “something’s going on.”
The head-turning moment came just hours after Trump touted the sky-high ratings for the events on social media, and shortly after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged his constituents not to “look back” on his prior statements downplaying the coronavirus.
“How do you go from 10 to 20 to 30,000, to 300,000 [masks] — even though this is different,” Trump asked. “Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000? And, we have that in a lot of different places. So, somebody should probably look into that. I just don’t see from a practical standpoint how that’s possible to go from that to that, and we have that happening in numerous places.”
Pressed on the matter later at the briefing, Trump called on New Yorkers to “check” Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, about the changing mask numbers. “People should check them, because there’s something going on.” He asserted that it could be “something worse than hoarding.”
Furious nurses staged protests outside of Jacobi Hospital’s Emergency Room in the Bronx over the weekend, claiming there is a dangerous shortage of masks and gloves there. Sean Petty, a pediatric nurse at Jacobi, the hospital, told the New York Post: ‘We need billions of N95 masks. This policy that was put out by the CDC is killing nurses. We already lost our first nurse in New York City. We’re gonna lose more.”
Trump remarked that “many of the states are stocked up” on various critical supplies including ventilators — although, he added, “some don’t admit it.” Later, Trump suggested that “there’s a question as to hoarding of ventilators” in which some hospitals may be keeping the devices in case of a major problem in the future.
Also at the briefing, Trump shot back after PBS News’ Yamiche Alcindor — who has previously asked numerous questions about whether an unnamed administration official really used the term “Kung Flu” — began with another critical query as to Trump’s comments to Fox News on New York’s ventilators.
“Why don’t you people act a little more positively — it’s always get-you, get-you,” Trump said. “Be nice. Don’t be threatening. Be nice.”
Trump also suggested Alcindor had been fired from The New York Times because she is a subpar, partisan journalist.
In the main, however, the president largely sounded positive notes as to practical developments over the past 24 hours of the crisis.
In addition to the waived copays, Trump touted “some interesting” therapeutics that “will be announced over the next few weeks.” He said he has been working on getting a system that could sterilize health-care workers’ masks up to 20 times more quickly approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Trump went on to praise the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] for turning New York City’s Javits Center into a makeshift emergency hospital.
“It’s an incredible, complex, top-of-the-line hospital. Everyone’s trying to figure out how they did it,” Trump said, noting that he was also unsure. “And, I was a good builder.”
The president maintained distance from other speakers at the briefing, and referenced social-distancing guidelines as soon as he took to the podium.
“Appreciate everybody being here — beautiful day in the Rose Garden,” Trump remarked. “Tremendous distance between chairs.”