U.S President Donald Trump on Monday called the coronavirus “a horrible scourge” that is going to lead to a sharp increase in deaths in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks.
Hours after calling for Americans to continue social distancing through April 30, Trump told the “Fox & Friends” show, “There’s going to be a spike [in deaths] and then it will come down and that will be a good day. By June 1, we think the deaths will come down.”
“Nobody is more worried than me about the country," Trump said, as health experts predict that 100,000 or more Americans could die from the coronavirus pandemic, about 50 times the current death toll of about 2,400.
“If we didn’t shut it down” to continue social distancing and limiting the size of gatherings to 10 people, Trump said, the death toll could reach 2.2 million.
“We wanted to do something where we have the least deaths,” he said. “It’s a very sad thing, it’s a vicious thing.”
“If you [end restrictions] too soon, it comes back,” Trump said. “The worst thing we can do is declare victory” prematurely.
Trump told “Fox and Friends” Monday the U.S. has now tested more people for coronavirus than anywhere else in the world. However, the U.S testing figure is not as high on a per capita basis as South Korea and Italy.
“That’s why we have more cases” of people testing positive for the infection, more than 140,000 as of Monday and rising rapidly.
But he said the U.S. has a lower mortality rate compared to other countries — about 1.7% of all those who test positive for the virus, compared to nearly three times that across the globe in the 151 countries where the pandemic has been found.
The virus has now killed more than 34,000 people throughout the world.
Trump, as he has in recent days, voiced hope for the experimental use of an anti-malarial drug to treat coronavirus, which 1,100 patients in New York have been given, even though normal clinical tests have not been carried out.
“I think it might be very successful even though this is not what scientists want to do,” Trump said. “Let’s see what happens. We’re going to know very soon.”
He said officials are looking for ways to give bonuses, extra cash to health care workers on the front lines of treating coronavirus patients.
When the coronavirus outbreak finally ends, the president said he envisions a changed country in a couple ways, with more Americans conscious of the need to regularly wash their hands.
And he said fewer people will be so quick to shake hands when greeting others.
Trump’s "Fox & Friends" interview came after he first announced the extension of the social gathering guidelines at a White House news conference Sunday evening.
“The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.
“I want our life back again,” he said.
The initial two-week period of government-recommended mitigation was set to expire Monday.
Trump had said he wanted the country back in business by Easter, April 12, saying he didn’t want the cure of an economic shutdown to be worse than the disease.
He backed away from that promise Sunday, now calling that Easter deadline “aspirational.”
The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the decision to extend federal social distancing guidelines was “wise and prudent.” He said what has been done to date has had an effect, although he stood by his previous forecast of more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States. “What we're trying to do is not let that happen,” he said. “So instead of concentrating on the upper and the lower, we're saying that we're trying to push it all the way down.”
Trump thanked the Food and Drug Administration for its speedy approval of a new coronavirus test that he says produces “lightning-fast” results in five minutes.
Trump’s recent job approval rating has hit an all-time high for his presidency — 49% — in part over the way he has handled the outbreak. But he said he doesn’t want popularity this way and would rather be credited for a strong economy.
Trump on Friday signed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to help Americans and businesses weather the outbreak. The centerpiece of the bill is direct cash payments to most U.S. families.
He said most people will start seeing checks within a few weeks.