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Updated at 2:16 p.m. ET
The White House Coronavirus Response Task Force is hosting a briefing for Friday afternoon as the conversation in Washington turns to how America could reactivate after going to sleep to slow the pandemic.
President Trump is expected to receive recommendations on when and how the nation could reopen. He and the advisers have to make tough decisions on how to balance economic, social, public health and other priorities.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a senior immunologist who advised the White House disaster response, suggested in a briefing on Thursday that normalization might look different for different parts of the country.
Watch the live briefing here.
Trump: response supplies are pouring in
Trump said on Friday that the federal response had helped alleviate the shortage of masks, equipment and other supplies needed for hospitals and healthcare workers.
“We are in great shape in every way,” he said. “Fans, protective clothing – we are not receiving a call from the governors at this time. We get very few calls from governors or anyone else who needs something – we are in great shape for this push that is coming in some areas. ”
It was not immediately possible to assess whether, in fact, the deficits reported in some places have been improved, but the president’s statement followed weeks of efforts to collect, ship and produce the supplies.
Trump said he regretted new predictions predicting around 60,000 pandemic deaths, but said the result was better than higher projections, which ranged from 100,000 to millions of deaths.
“In the mist of grief and pain, we see signs that our aggressive strategy is saving countless lives,” he said.
Trump and public health officials have urged Americans to continue staying at home, stay away from large groups, and take other precautions that are encouraged to slow the spread of the virus. Countermeasures work, officials say.
Questions about the standardization process
With confidence now strengthened as to the validity of the social distancing strategy and the first indications of the end to come, the discussion now turns to how America could return to normal.
White House advisers suggest that there will not be a single plan that applies everywhere.
“I don’t think there will be benchmarks that are going to be consistent from a [area] to the other, “said Fauci Thursday.
Trump has been forced to announce at least an end date to countermeasures that call for staying at home and avoiding large groups – which have amounted to medically induced coma for much of the US economy.
Restaurants, brick and mortar retailers, travel and other industries have been polished; some 17 million people are unemployed.
With at least a theoretical decrease in the view of new infections and deaths, Trump and Vice President Pence say they are anxious to begin to assess how sections of the United States could return to something like normal, allowing people to move more freely and return to work.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NPR this week that his agency was working on a plan to get there, but his comments suggested the need for a major and as yet incomplete effort.
First, the nation needs more coronavirus tests, Redfield said, especially tests with quick results to make diagnoses faster. Public health officials are also considering new tests that can show if a person has had the virus in the past and may be carrying antibodies.
Second, said Redfield, the United States needs to significantly expand contact tracing for those who are infected.
As part of these practices, public health officials work with someone known to be sick through everyone else they have been in contact with – to see how many of them may be infected.
Many people with coronavirus have no symptoms, but they can still pass it on to others who get sick. This is why the identification of all those affected by it, in whatever form, is so important in limiting the epidemic.
Redfield said a possible national test and contact tracing program should be carried out by local health authorities, with advice and assistance from the CDC.
Presumably, once officials have understood where and how the infection is located, for example in a metropolitan area, they could then begin to decide when stores and businesses could reopen.