President Donald Trump’s insistence on downplaying the coronavirus risks reached dangerous levels Monday as he scoffed at medical advice and threatened to open up the economy despite skyrocketing case numbers.
At the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing, the president focused on wanting to reopen businesses very soon despite global guidance to essentially shut down societies and encourage people to stay home.
“It’s bad, and obviously the numbers are going to increase with time, and they’re going to start to decrease, and we’re going to be opening our country up for business because our country was meant to be open,” Trump said, despite the rising COVID-19 death toll.
The US saw confirmed cases rise to more than 41,000 on Monday, with nearly 600 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins medical school’s coronavirus resource centre. World Health Organisation Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that the pandemic is actually accelerating ― stressing that it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.
But these numbers have not appeared to influence Trump’s desire to shift the priority back to the economy.
The president said he wants the country to be “back to business” soon. Though he didn’t give an exact timeline, he said it won’t be “three or four months as some people were saying and a lot of people thought originally.” The “people” Trump was referring to were the nation’s health experts.
There are “certain hot spots like New York,” and the federal government has to work on those spots, “but at the same time, at a certain point, we have to get open, and we have to get moving,” Trump said. “We don’t want to lose these companies. We don’t want to lose these workers.”
Trump repeated that “we can do two things at one time” before again bringing up flu deaths and motor vehicle fatalities.
“We have a very active flu season, more active than most. It’s looking like it’s heading to 50,000 or more deaths — deaths, not cases. 50,000 deaths — which is, that’s a lot,” he said. “And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody no more driving of cars. So we have to do things to get our country open.”
As reporters pushed the president on why he would open up businesses when the country is seeing COVID-19 deaths occur at a faster rate, Trump said that more people would die from economic and social restrictions than from allowing the virus to spread.
“You have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies,” the president said, adding that “the cure has been very tough.”
CNN reporter Kaitlin Collins asked Trump if any doctors on his team have agreed with him that it’s the right decision to ease social-distancing guidelines in a matter of weeks.
“If it were up to the doctors, they may say, ’Let’s keep it shut down ― let’s shut down the entire world,” he said. “You can’t do that with a country ― especially the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world, by far … you can’t do that. It causes bigger problems than the original.”
Pressed again on whether any doctors have endorsed easing the guidelines soon, Trump said they have “not endorsed” but that “I think they’re OK with it, and I’m OK with it.”
Monday was the second consecutive briefing in which Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, was not present. Asked if he’ll listen to Fauci if he advises him to maintain the self-isolating guidelines beyond 15 days, Trump said: “Yeah … then ultimately I have to make a decision.”
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