More Americans have now died from the coronavirus in less than two months than in the entire nine years of the Vietnam war — more than 58,000. But the United States crossed another threshold Tuesday — 1 million known coronavirus cases.
That is nearly one-third of all the world’s known coronavirus cases. To put the enormity of that into context, the U.S.’s 328 million people is just over 4% of the world’s population.
Asked Tuesday why he had previously claimed that coronavirus cases would go to zero, Trump said: “The experts got it wrong.” He added: “I think we’ve done a great job in the sense that we were early … by banning China … we probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Trump has also attributed the high number of cases in the U.S. to heightened testing and less transparency in reporting cases in countries like China. “We’re going to show more cases, because we’re doing much, much more testing,” he said.
But testing in the U.S. is still not adequate or widespread enough to know who has the coronavirus. As of Monday, 5.1 million American had been tested. Experts say that’s not nearly enough. One Harvard study estimates that the U.S. needs to start testing 5 million people per day.
Asked about the study Tuesday, Trump claimed without evidence, “We will increase it; we will increase it by much more than that in the future.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN that the coronavirus task force is hoping that “everyone who needs a test” might be able to get one by the end of May or early June.
“It isn’t perfect yet by any means,” Fauci said, adding, “It isn’t perfect, and we’re not there yet — and we’re not — but we’re going to get there; we’re going to get there soon.”
President Trump spoke in the East Room of the White House Tuesday spoke about supporting small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic through the Paycheck Protection Program.Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Coronavirus latest goings on:
The coronavirus task force didn’t hold a briefing Tuesday, but President Trump took questions at an event at the White House. Here’s some of what came from that and other moving parts as it relates to coronavirus news:
- Increased death toll estimate: The model created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington model is now predicting more than 74,000 COVID-19 deaths by the beginning of August, up from 67,000 a week ago and 60,000 a week before that. “At least part of this increase,” IHME said, “is due to many states experiencing flatter and thus longer epidemic peaks. Further, updated data indicate that daily COVID-19 deaths are not falling very quickly after the peak, leading to longer tails for many states’ epidemic curves.” Fauci noted, “If we are unsuccessful or prematurely try to open up and we have additional outbreaks that are out of control, it could be much more than that.”
- Pence goes maskless at Mayo Clinic: The vice president did not wear a mask while visiting the Mayo Clinic Tuesday, defying the medical center’s safety protocol for its campus. Pence was videoed meeting with staff and even a recovered patient without wearing any sort of face covering, as is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pence said he went without the mask because he is tested regularly as is everyone around him, and that he wanted to be able to look health care workers “in the eye.” (Of course, you can look people in the eye while wearing a mask.)
- FLASHBACK: “Well, I just don’t want to wear one myself. It’s a recommendation; they recommend it. I’m feeling good. I just don’t want to be doing — I don’t know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk — the great Resolute Desk — I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know. Somehow, I don’t see it for myself. I just — I just don’t. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but this will pass and hopefully it’ll pass very quickly.” — President Trump, during a coronavirus task force briefing April 2.
- Testing is a total uncertainty: The only way to tell if and when society can fully reopen, experts say, is if widespread COVID-19 and antibody testing happens. But there is evidence there are problems with antibody testing (with only four tests having been approved by the FDA and hundreds of more out there), and only a small fraction of the U.S. population has been tested. Certainly not anyone who wants a test can get one, as the president previously claimed. And yet when Trump met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has faced criticism for his response to the pandemic, in the White House Tuesday, DeSantis claimed, “Our ability to test exceeds current demand.”
- Encouraging schools, colleges to open back up: Trump cited Purdue University in Indiana, which has said it is thinking about bringing students back. “I think that’s correct,” Trump said and noted that K-12 school districts could start thinking about letting children back in schools — even though there would be just a couple months or less left in the school year. “Young people do very well with this horrible scourge,” the president said.
- Gamble on Vegas reopening: Trump on Tuesday zeroed in on Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak during a teleconference call with state leaders, asking the Democrat if he had made a determination on reopening the Vegas Strip, where Trump owns a hotel. CNN reported that Trump said a Vegas relaunch “will be a big thing,” during the call where he also urged governors to consider reopening schools.
- Order on meat processing plants: Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order expected to force meat processing plants to stay open, despite hundreds of coronavirus cases already connected to the industry.
- Trump: The U.S. House should come back: Trump mocked Democratic House leaders for their decision not to bring lawmakers back next week, which is the recommendation from the Congress’ attending physician. Trump surmised that Democrats were “enjoying their vacation” and did not want to return to work. The Senate is expected to convene on Monday, under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has called for the legislative session against Senate Democrats’ concerns.