WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said the one-month extension of social distancing guidelines he has ordered could save 1 million lives in the country.
“We will have a great victory,” the president told reporters. “We have no other choice.”
Top U.S. public health officials are warning that even if the measures are rigidly followed, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the country will likely be between 100,000 and 200,000.
The president told reporters at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing that 1 million people across the nation have now been tested for the novel coronavirus.
The number of known U.S. cases has topped 160,000 — the most of any country. More than 2,800 deaths in the country have been attributed to COVID-19. A one-day record of 486 deaths for the country was recorded on Monday, according to media reports.
Trump spoke with governors on a conference call Monday, which he said for the most part, resulted in them saying, “Thank you for doing a great job.”
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana explained that officials were struggling with contact tracing because “we don’t have adequate tests,” according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.
The president reportedly told governors that he “hasn’t heard about testing in weeks,” suggesting that a chronic lack of kits to test people for the coronavirus is no longer a problem.
In public comments on Monday, some governors continued to sound an alarm about a shortage of ventilators to deal with the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients they anticipate hospitals in their states will confront in the weeks ahead.
At the afternoon media briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump said there are at least 10 companies in the country now making ventilators.
“I think we’re going to be in very good shape,” he said.
Trump at Monday’s briefing also announced that the United States would be sending to Italy $100 million worth of personal protective equipment for its hospitals hit hard by a deluge of COVID-19 patients.
Hospitals in the United States need the equipment as well, prompting manufacturers of other products to shift their operations to meet the demand. Trump said as those emergency supplies exceed the U.S. needs, then shipments would go abroad to places in need, including France and Spain.
He also said China and Russia were among the countries that have sent supplies to the United States to help fight the coronavirus.
During the briefing, Trump clashed with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who asked him whether his earlier statements had dangerously downplayed the threat from the virus.
Calling Acosta’s question “nasty, snarky,” the president said his statements were intended to calm people.
“I could cause panic much better than even you,” Trump said. “I could do much more. I would make you look like a minor league player.”
Earlier Monday, Trump called the coronavirus “a horrible scourge” that is going to lead to a sharp increase in deaths in the United States in the coming days and weeks.
The day after calling for Americans to continue social distancing through April 30, Trump told the “Fox & Friends” cable television show, “There’s going to be a spike (n deaths), and then it will come down, and that will be a good day. By June 1, we think the deaths will come down.”
Asked at the press briefing how his administration would respond to a return of the virus in the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn, something task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci called likely, Trump said, “We’re prepared. I hope it doesn’t happen.”