WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared it is time to reopen the country's economy, even if it means more people will fall victim to the coronavirus.
"The people of our country are warriors," the president told reporters in the state of Arizona. "Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open."
While visiting a Honeywell factory in Phoenix to highlight mass production of supplies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump stated in an interview with ABC News "there'll be more death" and predicted the coronavirus "will pass, with or without a vaccine."
At the facility, where N95 respirators are being produced, the president told its workers that they are part of the greatest industrial mobilization since World War Two.
Honeywell has been awarded a $27.4 million contract for 38 million units of N95 masks for delivery within 6 months.
The president wore goggles during the factory tour but did not don a mask. His visit came a week after Vice President Mike Pence was widely criticized for not putting on a mask during a tour of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
A White House official said that the facility informed officials they are not required to wear masks. A sign in the facility, seen by reporters accompanying the president, instructed employees: "Please wear your mask at all times."
After the tour, at an event which partly resembled a political rally with some workers publicly praising the president, Trump said: "This pandemic has underscored the vital importance of re-shoring our supply chain" and vital medicines, supplies and equipment should be manufactured in the United States.
During the one-day trip West, the president also held a roundtable on Native American issues, announcing that the Navajo Nation would get $600 million in federal funds for fighting COVID-19.
The Indian territory, which has tribal sovereignty and sprawls across three Southwestern states, has a per capita infection rates 10 times that of Arizona and behind only the states of New York and New Jersey.
Trump made the one-day visit to Arizona amid controversy over the numbers of projected COVID-19 deaths in the United States.
A draft government report indicates coronavirus cases will increase to about 200,000 per day by June 1 with about 3,000 deaths per day.
Trump has said he expects the pandemic to kill up to 100,000 people in the United States.
The White House and the Centers for Disease Control are disavowing the document, and the epidemiologist who created the model calls it a work in progress.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, in a statement, said the Johns Hopkins University study "being pushed around by the media as factual is based on faulty assumptions and is in no way representative of any federal government projections and, as Johns Hopkins stated, should not be taken as a forecast."
The press secretary says the study assumes "zero mitigation, meaning it was conducted as though no federal guidelines were in place, no contact tracing, no expansion of testing, while removing all shelter-in-place protocols laid out in the phased approach of the Opening Up America Again guidelines for individuals with co-morbidities. The media should be more responsible in its reporting and give the full set of information to the American public."
Justin Lessler of John Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health told NPR, "It's as if somebody looked over my shoulder when I was halfway through putting the work together and took a picture and put the results out there."
Social distancing warning
Public health officials are cautioning that premature openings of businesses and relaxing social distancing measures could cause a spike in infections, even in communities that have so far been relatively free of the coronavirus, for which there is no vaccine.
"How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be some form of normality sooner rather than later," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asked Monday night on CNN.
A growing number of governors, however, are reopening their states.
New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, is more cautious.
"The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost because the more lives lost," he said Tuesday. "That, my friends, is the decision we are really making. What is that balance? What is that tradeoff?"
Approximately 1.2 million people in the United States are confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus with more than 70,000 reported deaths – the most of any country.
Meanwhile, the White House is discussing disbanding the president's coronavirus task force as soon as Memorial Day, which is May 25.
"I think we're having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level. And we've already begun to talk about a transition plan" with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the vice president told a group of reporters Tuesday, confirming an earlier report by The New York Times.
"We're now looking at a little bit of a different form," confirmed Trump when asked in Arizona about the task force's fate. "And that's safety and opening."
Asked whether two prominent physicians, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, would still be involved in leading the government's campaign against the coronavirus, Trump responded, "They will be and so will other doctors and so will other experts in the field."