The president said that the U.S. military would be sending 1,000 personnel — doctors, nurses, respiratory experts and others — to New York, the current epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. He also touted efforts to assist in building makeshift hospitals there.
But Trump soon pivoted to an argument he has made repeatedly, saying “the cure could not be worse than the virus” and that the country should re-open soon. He resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown and expressed his disappointment that he’d be watching Easter services from a laptop.
“At a certain point,” the president said, “some hard decisions are going to have to be made” regarding social distancing guidelines currently in place for most of the country.
The president’s remarks stood in contrast to task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who emphasized the importance of social distancing in mitigating the spread of the virus.
“Let’s take this to the bank, that mitigation works,” Fauci told reporters.
“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” said Birx. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe and that means everybody doing the six-feet distancing, washing their hands.”
The mounting number of cases prompted the president to once again promote the use of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat lupus and prevent malaria that is being tested as a possible coronavirus treatment.
The president has been criticized for overstating the effectiveness of the drug, which remains in early testing as a treatment for the coronavirus. There remains no solid evidence that the drug is an effective COVID-19 treatment, and medical experts warn that using it for that purpose could exhaust supplies for those who need it.