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Trump: Toughest Weeks Ahead            04/05 08:53

   President Donald Trump is warning that the country could be headed into its 
"toughest" weeks yet as the coronavirus death toll mounts, but at the same time 
he expressed growing impatience with social distancing guidelines and said he's 
eager to get the country reopened and its stalled economy back on track.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump is warning that the country could 
be headed into its "toughest" weeks yet as the coronavirus death toll mounts, 
but at the same time he expressed growing impatience with social distancing 
guidelines and said he's eager to get the country reopened and its stalled 
economy back on track.

   "There will be a lot of death, unfortunately," Trump said Saturday in a 
somber start to his daily briefing on the pandemic, "There will be death." 

   Joining Trump were Vice President Mike Pence, virus task force coordinator 
Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's foremost 
infection disease expert. Each stood far apart from one another on the small 
stage. 

   Trump added a twist on his familiar push for a drug that hasn't been clearly 
shown to work to stop the virus --- he said he may start taking it as a 
preventative measure after consulting with his doctor, even though there's no 
evidence to show it works for that, either. 

   The president initially had suggested the country could reopen by Easter but 
pulled back seeing projections of a staggering death toll even if restrictive 
measures remain in place. But just days after extending tough national 
guidelines through the end of April, staring down historic levels of 
unemployment and economic standstill, he was talking about reopening as soon as 
possible, and speaking Saturday with leaders of professional sports leagues 
about filling arenas again. 

   "This country was not designed to be closed," he said. "The cure cannot be 
worse than the problem."

   The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the 
death toll climbing past 8,400; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in the 
state of New York. For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, 
such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, 
especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause 
more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

   Much of the country is under orders to stay home, including professional 
sports leagues that were among the first to clamp down in the pandemic. Trump 
spoke by phone with top leaders including Roger Goodell of the National 
Football League and the NBA's Adam Silver, telling them he hoped to get people 
back in seats as soon as possible. 

   "I want fans back in the arenas," he said. "Whenever we're ready, as soon as 
we can."

   The virus has decimated the sports world with the National Basketball 
Association and the National Hockey League suspending their seasons 
indefinitely and Major League Baseball postponing the start of its season. The 
NCAA basketball tournament was also canceled; so were college spring sports.

   A person with knowledge of the call said some of the commissioners weren't 
quite as optimistic as Trump because of the concerns raised by public health 
officials but appreciated the president's desire to give people hope and fans a 
reason to be optimistic. The person requested anonymity to discuss the private 
call.

   California's Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has three NFL teams in his state, was 
asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time in September. "I'm not 
anticipating that happening in this state," he said.

   Hard-hit states were seeing cases rise. Trump suggested that some states 
were asking for more medical supplies than they really needed. He said the goal 
was to stay several days ahead of critical medical needs in each state. 

   "The fears of the shortages have led to inflated requests," he said. 

   Louisiana officials have said New Orleans is on track to run out of 
ventilators by next week. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state is at the 
epicenter of the national pandemic with over 113,700 confirmed cases as of 
Saturday morning, has pleaded for ventilators for days. New York is poised to 
get more than 1,100 ventilators from China and Oregon. 

   Health officials did offer some hope that social distance measures were 
working. Fauci said he saw the efforts in action as he went out for a walk in 
Washington, D.C., and noticed people waiting six feet apart for restaurant take 
out.

   "As sobering and a difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a 
difference," Fauci said.

   But even as Fauci urged Americans to be patient and let mitigation efforts 
work, Trump said: "Mitigation does work. But again, we're not going to destroy 
our country." 

   The previously booming economy had been among Trump's biggest talking points 
as he heads into the 2020 presidential election, but the past few weeks have 
seen precipitous drops as the U.S. deals with the fallout from the virus that 
has shuttered businesses, gutted airlines and forced people into their homes. 

   The president also continued to tout hydroxychloroquine, a drug long used to 
treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, after very small preliminary 
studies suggested it might help prevent the coronavirus from entering cells and 
possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. But the drug has major potential 
side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see 
if it is safe and effective for treating COVID-19. 

   Trump suggested he may consider whether he should start taking the drug, 
though he also said he'd ask his doctor first. Some studies are testing whether 
hydroxychloroquine can help prevent infections in health care workers, but none 
has suggested that others, such as the president, should take it to prevent 
infection.

   With Congress away, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed for the next aid 
package to be ready for an April vote in a letter to House Democrats.

   "We must double down on the down-payment we made in the CARES Act by passing 
a CARES 2 package," she wrote about the just-passed $2.2 trillion bill, pushing 
for another additional unemployment benefits, small business loans and direct 
payments to Americans.


(KR)

 
 
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