Trump declares most difficult weeks ahead as coronavirus spreads

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that the country may be entering its most difficult weeks to date as the number of deaths from coronaviruses increases, but at the same time he has expressed growing impatience with the regard to the guidelines on social distancing and said he was eager to reopen the country and its stalled economy is back on track.

“There will be a lot of deaths, unfortunately,” said Trump in a somber start to his daily pandemic briefing. “There will be death. “

Vice President Mike Pence, coordinator of the virus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease specialist, have joined Trump. Everyone stood far apart from each other on the small stage.

Trump has added a touch to his familiar push for a drug that has not been clearly shown to work to stop the virus – he said he could start taking it preventively after consulting his doctor, even if there is no evidence to prove it. works for that either.

The president initially suggested that the country could reopen by Easter, but backed down when he saw projections of an astounding death toll even if restrictive measures remain in place. But just a few days after extending the stringent national guidelines until the end of April, bringing down historic levels of unemployment and economic status quo, he was talking about reopening as soon as possible and talking to professional sport leagues on Saturday to refill the arenas.

“This country was not designed to be closed,” he said. “The remedy cannot be worse than the problem. “

The number of people infected in the United States has exceeded 300,000, the death toll has exceeded 8,100; more than 3,500 of these deaths occurred in New York State.

Much of the country has been ordered to stay at home, including professional sports leagues which were among the first to respond to the pandemic. Trump spoke on the phone with top executives, including Roger Goodell of the National Football League and Adam Silver of the NBA, telling them he hoped to get people back into the seats as soon as possible.

“I want the fans to come back to the arenas,” he said. “Whenever we are ready, as soon as possible. “

The virus has decimated the world of sport with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League suspending their seasons indefinitely and Major League Baseball postponing the start of its season. The NCAA basketball tournament has also been canceled; just like spring sports in college.

Respondent to the call said some of the commissioners were not as optimistic as Trump because of concerns raised by public health officials, but appreciated the president’s desire to give people hope and fans a reason to be optimistic. The person requested anonymity to discuss the private call.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has three NFL teams in his state, was asked to say if he thought the NFL season would start on time in September. “I do not foresee this happening in this state,” he said.

Hard-hit states were seeing more cases. Trump has suggested that some states are asking for more medical supplies than they really need. He said the goal was to be several days ahead of each state’s critical medical needs.

“Fears of the shortage have led to an increase in demand,” he said.

Louisiana officials said New Orleans was about to run out of fans next week. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state is at the epicenter of the national pandemic with more than 113,700 cases confirmed on Saturday morning, pleaded for ventilators for days. New York is about to receive more than 1,100 fans from China and Oregon.

Health officials have given hope that social distance measures are working. Fauci said he saw the efforts in action as he went out for a walk in Washington, D.C., and noticed that people were waiting six feet apart to get out of the restaurant.

“As sober and difficult as it may be, what we do makes a difference,” said Fauci.

But even though Fauci urged the Americans to be patient and let the mitigation efforts work, Trump said, “Mitigation works. But again, we are not going to destroy our country. “

The previously booming economy had been one of Trump’s main talking points in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, but the past few weeks have seen precipitous falls as the U.S. struggles against fallout of the virus that closed businesses, destroyed airlines, and forced people into their homes.

The president also continued to tout hydroxychloroquine, a drug long used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, after very small preliminary studies suggesting that it could help prevent the coronavirus from entering cells and maybe help patients clear the virus sooner. But the drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see if it is safe and effective in treating COVID-19.

Trump suggested he might consider starting to take the drug, but also said he would ask his doctor first. Some studies test whether hydroxychloroquine can help prevent infections in healthcare workers, but none have suggested that others, like the president, take it to prevent infection.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health conditions, this can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.

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AP Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi in Indian Shores, Florida contributed to this report.

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