by Sharon Rondeau

(Mar. 23, 2020) — At Monday evening’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference, President Trump said that life in America will return to normal “very soon,” that Americans should “remain focused on victory,” and that the U.S. “wasn’t built to be shut down.”

Trump’s opening remarks mirror those made earlier Monday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who suggested he is contemplating how and when to reopen parts of the economy shut down from the coronavirus pandemic.

As he tweeted on Sunday, Trump said that “the cure” for the pandemic should not be “worse” than the illness itself.

He said that “tremendous work” is under way on treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus.

Trump resolved not to allow the widespread illness to destroy the United States economy.  “Our country will be stronger than ever before,” he said.

FEMA is “right now” delivering millions of N95 masks to hospitals, Trump said.  “We’ve having millions and millions of masks made as we speak,” he added.  He said that the private sector is working with the government to supply medical equipment to hospitals.

At 6:18 p.m., Trump repeated that a trial of the combination of hydoxychloroquine and azithromycin will begin in New York City on Tuesday, as Cuomo mentioned during his presser.

Trump thanked the FDA and its commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, for their work.  He mentioned other drugs he said are now “under study” for treatment of coronavirus.  He said it will be “a gift from God” and “a game-changer” if the suggested medications help patients to improve.

Between Sunday and Monday, Trump said, more than 100 U.S. citizens were returned home from Brazil, where they were stranded as a result of the virus outbreak and travel restrictions.

Earlier on Monday, Trump signed an executive order to ban price-gouging of medical supplies, he announced, and said that Attorney General William Barr, who stood on his right during the presser, would provide more details.

The DOJ will be prosecuting anyone making false claims about treatments for the coronavirus, Trump said.

He thanked health-care workers, first-responders, and those delivering products and supplies across the country during the crisis.  He thanked grocers, restaurant workers preparing takeout food per state governors’ orders, and the American people for “rising to the challenge and showing incredible courage.”

The virus has now affected 148 countries, Trump said.  “We will win this war, and we will win it much sooner than people think.”  The U.S. “will be back in business soon,” he asserted.

At 6:27, Barr took to the podium for the first time at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing and expanded upon the president’s executive order banning “hoarding” and “price-gouging.”  Barr said that the president was authorized to sign the EO under “Section 102” of the Defense Production Act (DPA), which Trump invoked last week.  “It is a crime to engage in prohibited activity,” Barr said.

The Justice Department will be designating a particular person in each of 93 U.S. Attorneys’ offices to handle complaints of price-gouging and hoarding, Barr said.  “If you are sitting on a warehouse of surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door,” he added.

Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator, thanked foreign health ministers for sending data to the U.S. She said the data shows “less severity” in children given that only one child, who lived in China, has been reported deceased from the virus.

She said that “pre-existing conditions” continue to be a factor in recovery or death from the coronavirus.

Birx said that at least 250,000 tests have been administered across the country in the last seven days.  “Self-swabbing options” will be available “this week,” she said.

She stressed that those living in New York City must practice “social distancing” given the significantly higher rate of infection recorded.

At 6:35, Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the Task Force, reiterated that “the federal government will do whatever it takes” to assist the states and “slow the spread” of the virus.  “Millions of Americans are addressing these commonsense guidelines,” he said, holding up the 15-day program outlined last Monday to hopefully slow the spread and incidence of the disease.

Pence then detailed what he hopes Congress will pass to provide financial relief to Americans out of work and the companies affected.  Earlier Monday, a procedural vote failed in the U.S. Senate, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi introduced an independent bill drafted by that chamber.

The self-swabbing will ease “the drain” on personal protective equipment (PPE), Pence said.  “If you don’t have symptoms, you don’t need to have a coronavirus test,” he repeated from other pressers.

New guidance from HHS to be issued tonight, Pence said, will direct that hospitalized patients be prioritized for coronavirus testing.

Out of a total of 313,000 tests performed across the country, approximately 41,000 have shown “positive” results, Pence reported.

3M has sent out a half-million N95 masks to facilities in need, Pence said, emphasizing the participation of private companies in mobilizing against the pandemic.  There has been a “breakthrough” in obtaining ventilators, he said.

Pence said he is confident that “we can slow the spread” and “heal our land.”

A “Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force” has been formed, RADM John Polowcyk reported.

In response to a reporter’s question, Trump conceded that the ongoing pandemic “is going to be bad.”  However, he stressed that the economic shutdown will not last “months, as some have said.”

“We have to get moving…We’ve learned a lot during this period,” Trump said in response to another reporter’s question.  “We have to open our country that in my opinion, could be far bigger problems,” he said. “This two weeks that we have spent has been an incredible learning process.”

“You can’t do that,” he said of keeping the economy shuttered.  “We have done it really well, because this two-week period has been really good…That’s going to go even as we open up our country.”  He said that “hot spots” such as New York, California, Washington State and Illinois may experiences “quarantines” in the future.

He reminded reporters that the 15-day period’s recommendations is not yet expired.

Trump said “we can’t turn off” the 160 million jobs people customarily work each day, saying it could result in “death.”

“We’re getting fairly close to coming up with a date” for reopening America for business, Trump said.


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