Trump Projects Up to 240K US Deaths from Virus; Calls for Infrastructure Bill

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Tuesday, March 31st. He warned Americans to brace for a “rough two-week period” ahead as the White House released new projections that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) House, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By: AP & VOA

President Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace for a “rough two-week period” ahead as the White House released new projections that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained, as was reported by AP.

Public health officials stressed that the number could be less if people change their behavior.

“We really believe we can do a lot better than that,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. That would require all Americans to take seriously their role in preventing the spread of disease, she said.

AP reported that Trump called American efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “a matter of life and death” and urged the public to heed his administration’s guidelines. He predicted the country would soon see a “light at the end of the tunnel” in the pandemic that has killed more than 3,500 Americans and infected 170,000 more.

A woman watches from a park bench as the Samaritan’s Purse crew and medical personnel work on preparing to open a 68 bed emergency field hospital specially equipped with a respiratory unit in New York’s Central Park, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in New York. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump said. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said the numbers are “sobering” and called on Americans to “step on the accelerator” with their collective mitigation efforts, according to the AP report.

“We are continue to see things go up,” Fauci said. “We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work.”

Birx said pandemic forecasts initially predicted 1.5 million to 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. But that was a worst-case scenario, without efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing.

AP reported that Birx said states that have not yet seen a spike in cases as New York has could take action to flatten the curve of rising hospitalizations and deaths.

As for the projection of 100,000-240,000 deaths, Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said: “We don’t accept that number, that that’s what it’s going to be. … We want to do much better than that.”

The comments came after Trump announced Sunday that he was extending to April 30 the social distancing guidelines that urged Americans to cease social gatherings, work from home, suspend onsite learning at schools and more in a nationwide effort to stem the spread of the virus.

AP reported that it was an abrupt reversal for Trump, who spent much of last week targeting April 12 as the day he wanted to see Americans “pack the pews” for Easter Sunday services.

Many states and local governments already have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.

Trump spoke after another troubling day for the stock market, which has been in a free fall as the cononavirus ground the economy to a near-halt and left millions unemployed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 400 points, or roughly 1.9%, to seal the worst first-quarter finish of its 135-year history, as was reported by AP.

In his May 15, 2019 file photo shows CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo at the WarnerMedia Upfront in New York. Cuomo has announced that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. The prime-time host is one of the most visible media figures to come down with the disease. He said he’s experienced chills, fever and shortness of breath. He promised to continue doing his show while in quarantine in the basement of his home. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Also on Tuesday, Trump called for a $2 trillion infrastructure bill to serve as “Phase 4” of the federal government’s coronavirus response efforts, just days after Congress approved a massive stimulus package worth even more than that.

“With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do out decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4.”

VOA reported on Monday that Trump said the one-month extension of social distancing guidelines he has ordered could save 1 million lives in the country.

“We will have a great victory,” the president told reporters. “We have no other choice.”

The president told reporters at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing that 1 million people across the nation have now been tested for the novel coronavirus, according to the VOA report.

The number of known U.S. cases has topped 160,000 — the most of any country. More than 2,800 deaths in the country have been attributed to COVID-19. A one-day record of 486 deaths for the country was recorded on Monday, according to media reports.

Trump spoke with governors on a conference call Monday, which he said for the most part, resulted in them saying, “Thank you for doing a great job.”

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana explained that officials were struggling with contact tracing because “we don’t have adequate tests,” according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.

The president reportedly told governors that he “hasn’t heard about testing in weeks,” suggesting that a chronic lack of kits to test people for the coronavirus is no longer a problem.

In public comments on Monday, some governors continued to sound an alarm about a shortage of ventilators to deal with the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients they anticipate hospitals in their states will confront in the weeks ahead.

At the afternoon media briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump said there are at least 10 companies in the country now making ventilators.

“I think we’re going to be in very good shape,” he said.

Trump at Monday’s briefing also announced that the United States would be sending to Italy $100 million worth of personal protective equipment for its hospitals hit hard by a deluge of COVID-19 patients, as was reported by VOA.

Hospitals in the United States need the equipment as well, prompting manufacturers of other products to shift their operations to meet the demand. Trump said as those emergency supplies exceed the U.S. needs, then shipments would go abroad to places in need, including France and Spain.

He also said China and Russia were among the countries that have sent supplies to the United States to help fight the coronavirus.

VOA reported that during the briefing, Trump clashed with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who asked him whether his earlier statements had dangerously downplayed the threat from the virus.

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort passes lower Manhattan on its way to docking in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning. It’s expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Calling Acosta’s question “nasty, snarky,” the president said his statements were intended to calm people.

“I could cause panic much better than even you,” Trump said. “I could do much more. I would make you look like a minor league player.”

Earlier Monday, Trump called the coronavirus “a horrible scourge” that is going to lead to a sharp increase in deaths in the United States in the coming days and weeks.

VOA reported that the day after calling for Americans to continue social distancing through April 30, Trump told the “Fox & Friends” cable television show, “There’s going to be a spike (in deaths), and then it will come down, and that will be a good day. By June 1, we think the deaths will come down.”

Asked at the press briefing how his administration would respond to a return of the virus in the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn, something task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci called likely, Trump said, “We’re prepared. I hope it doesn’t happen.

“Nobody is more worried than me about the country,” Trump said, as health experts predict that 100,000 or more Americans could die from the coronavirus pandemic, about 50 times the current death toll of about 2,400.

“If we didn’t shut it down” to continue social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings to 10 people, Trump said, the death toll could reach 2.2 million.

“We wanted to do something where we have the least deaths,” he said. “It’s a very sad thing, it’s a vicious thing.”

“If you end restrictions too soon, it comes back,” Trump said. “The worst thing we can do is declare victory” prematurely.

“The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.

“I want our life back again,” he said.

In other related developments, the World Health Organization said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak is “far from over” in such as China and South Korea despite vast improvements.

“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard. We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation,” the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, said at a briefing.

China reported one new death and 48 new cases Tuesday, none of them locally transmitted, while South Korea reported 125 new ones.

Kasai and experts at a separate WHO briefing stressed that governments need to be taking active measures and maintain pressure to halt the spread of the respiratory infection.

He said the WHO had no evidence that the rising temperatures of the coming hot season would slow down the virus, as some had hoped, and that there was no telling how much longer the pandemic would last.

Meanwhile, the staggering numbers of those dying of COVID-19 and those testing positive for it in New York City has rattled the nation and the world. The iconic Empire State Building in New York City lit up Monday night in the form of a red and white siren to honor emergency workers “on the front line of the fight.”

New York is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with more than 900 deaths as hospitals struggle to cope with the influx of patients.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo has made a nationwide appeal for more help, asking doctors and nurses in areas without an urgent coronavirus situation to travel to the area to help.

The pandemic turned personal for Governor Cuomo on Tuesday when he learned his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus and would continue to broadcast from his basement.

            (AP & VOA)