U.S. states today reported more than 100 deaths from the novel coronavirus, pushing the country’s total death toll past 500 and marking the first time single-day fatalities have risen into the triple-digits since the pandemic reached U.S. soil.
The virus has claimed lives in at least 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and has infected more than 41,000 people nationwide.
By this afternoon, three dozen states had reported new deaths.
New York, the state hit hardest by the outbreak, reported the most, with 43 deaths.
Louisiana, where new infections are spiking, reported 14, followed by New Jersey and Michigan, which reported seven each.
The new fatalities offer a stark illustration of the outbreak’s deepening human toll at a time when President Trump is considering scaling back containment efforts in hopes of preventing further economic turmoil.
Trump and Vice President Pence said Monday that the federal government would reassess social distancing guidelines at the end of the month.
Public health officials have urged the administration not to backpedal on social distancing, saying such a move would undermine work to mitigate the virus and overwhelm hospitals, which are already facing shortages of tests, masks and other essential medical supplies.
Trump said today he will reconsider the nation’s social distancing policy within a matter of days and promised America will be open for business ‘very soon.’
‘America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon,’ Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing. ‘A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem.’
Trump complained about the caution brought by health care professionals, saying he told his team they would close the ‘entire world.’
‘I was telling them, if it was up to the doctors, they would keep it shut down, they would say “let’s shut down the entire world.”‘ You can’t do that,’ he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was noticeably absent from the briefing for the second day running today.
The coronavirus expert admitted in an interview over the weekend that he has to tell Trump facts four times to get his point across.
His absence caused concern for many Americans online, because he has been a credible source of information.
Fauci said in an interview with Science that ‘when you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things 1,2,3,4 times, and then it happens. So I’m going to keep pushing.’
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that he tries to correct Trump but he ‘can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down.’
He criticized the president for publicly shaking hands with people, saying: ‘I say that to the task force. I say that to the staff. We should not be doing that.’
‘Not only that – we should be physically separating a bit more on those press conferences.’
The top immunologist said that he was pushing for the White House to adopt virtual press conferences to avoid briefings crowded with experts, politicians and journalists – contradicting official advice to not to gather in groups of above ten people.
He said that he would never call refer to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ as Trump has done – which critics have condemned as racist.
His remarks, the latest in a string of public rebukes against the president, combined with his absence from Sunday’s White House press briefing on the coronavirus have fueled speculation of tension between the two men.
The doctor discussed the president’s claim that China should have warned the US two or three months before they publicly announced the sequence of the development of coronavirus.
‘The way it happened is that after he made that statement [suggesting China could have revealed the discovery of a new coronavirus three to four months earlier], I told the appropriate people, it doesn’t comport, because two or three months earlier would have been September,’ he said.
The virus was only discovered in late December.
He continued: ‘The next time they sit down with him and talk about what he’s going to say, they will say, by the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that.
‘But I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.’