President Donald Trump continued to advocate for an accelerated reopening of the U.S. economy on Monday, even in the wake of disclosures that at least three White House aides have been infected by the coronavirus as the disease’s toll mounted worldwide.
Two Trump aides, as well as Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, have all tested positive. Meanwhile, FDA Commissioner Steven Hahn, CDC Director Robert Redfield and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Anthony Fauci have all placed themselves in quarantine after determining they had been in contact with someone who tested positive.
Trump said Monday the U.S. has become the top testing country in the world, set to surpass 10 million testing in total this week, and achieving a rate of 300,000 tests per day. Health experts have said at least 500,000 tests per day are needed to safely reopen.
But the distribution of that testing remains a concern. The Trump administration is also committing $11 billion of the $25 billion set aside for testing in the CARES Act will be used to provide testing supplies — including swabs and transport media— to states.
As the global pandemic hit a new milestone over the weekend, surpassing 4 million cases, Trump on Monday lambasted some Democrats for slow-walking a revival “for political purposes.”
He specifically took aim at Pennsylvania, a battleground state where tensions are rising over relaxing stay-at-home orders. The president is scheduled to speak about coronavirus testing in an afternoon briefing, his first virus-related media avail since late April.
The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails. The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 11, 2020
Certain U.S. states have plotted a reopening, yet countries that had seen a waning of the virus and reopened may be seeing a second wave — even as the world’s largest economy struggles to get a handle on the first. Associate Dean for global health at University of Alabama at Birmingham, Michael Saag told Yahoo Finance on Monday that states need a unified strategy, rather than case-by-case metrics.
“The question we all have is what happens if this continual rise of cases goes on, and we’re not able to get it back under control quickly enough to protect our health care systems,” Saag said, comparing it to a “nuclear reactor” threatening a meltdown.
With a few White House aides having tested positive for COVID-19, federal officials are now grappling with a crisis that’s hitting closer to home. It’s also raised new concerns have been raised about whether the rest of the country is prepared to reopen.
Globally, deaths have surpassed 283,00, and in the U.S., there are now more than 1.3 million cases and more than 79,000 deaths. However, signs of progress have given some cause for hope: New York, the epicenter of the domestic outbreak, reported its lowest number of hospitalizations since late March.
However, the battle over exactly where and when states should reopen has stoked a furious debate, even as a new poll suggests Americans are less worried about getting seriously ill from the virus than they were just weeks ago.
According to a Monmouth Poll, about 42% of those surveyed are “very concerned about someone in their family becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.” That figure has fallen from a reading of 50% last month and not far from levels seen when the outbreak grew more severe in late March.
In both South Korea and China, there are reports of new cases, including in Wuhan — the epicenter of the global outbreak. South Korea has been widely regarded as a standard of efforts to contain the virus, and implementing strong testing efforts. Separately, a surge in new cases in Germany has many worried, as parts of Europe have eased restrictions.
The second wave is something health experts, including Fauci, have bee warning about, especially as states mull ways to restart public life. Among medical experts, a general consensus exists that mobility leads to fresh waves of the outbreak.
“The virus is so transmissible, and its globally spread,” Fauci said recently in an interview with the Economic Club. “It’s inevitable that we will have a return...how we handle it will determine our fate.”
The reopening strategy has put pressure on a number of prominent drug companies, which are engaged in a breakneck race for effective treatments and vaccines.
And with the economy in shambles and a deep recession looming, the debate has taken on an added significance.
“The January-March quarter was bad, but the April-June quarter will be horrific,” noted Marc Chandler at Bannockburn Global Forex, who said on Monday that the U.S. could be “near the bottom” of a downturn that could b “worse than the Great Depression.”
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