WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday extended his “15 Days to Slow the Spread” campaign by another 30 days, as the president somberly warned about a spike in expected deaths ahead.
Trump acknowledged “we’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” but added, “we’re going to start seeing real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, the president’s point person on the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force’s lead coordinator, during a briefing that lasted more than two hours, Trump acknowledged, “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” but at the end he hoped,”we’re going to start seeing real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Birx stood before charts that showed the likely death toll without preventive measures — 1.5 million to 2.2 million people — could be reduced to 100,000 to 240,000 deaths with mitigation measures, and could taper off in June.
Task force members stressed that they hoped to see a number below 100,000. A lower number might be attainable if states follow the example of California and Washington, Birx explained, and avoid the experience of the nation’s worst hot spot, the New York metropolitan area.
According to a task force chart, Nevada would rank 14th among the states in terms of per capita spread of the virus.
Like the original “15 Days to Slow the Spread” campaign, the 30-day effort announced Tuesday urged nonessential workers to work from home, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people and practice good hygiene.
Asked if the administration supported a national shelter-in-place strategy, Trump stood by his support for voluntary measures with the ability for governors to impose harsher measures in their states.
But Trump seemed to warm to the idea of a more robust federal role in procuring ventilators — an effort that Trump had rejected earlier when he said of the federal government, “we are not shipping clerks.”
During his Tuesday briefing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of a system in which states drive up the cost of ventilators as they “end up bidding against each other.” Cuomo likened the situation to “being on eBay with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator” and suggested that the federal government should procure ventilators rather than making states compete with each other.
“They shouldn’t be doing that,” Trump responded. “If that happens, they should be calling us.” And added, “If they do need them, we will have them there before they need them.”
Pressed as to whether Trump was signaling a change in policy, Trump said he didn’t want governors competing and driving up the price of ventilators. “They should be calling us,” and the federal government could ship the ventilators directly to points of need.
As for Cuomo, Trump offered, “the problem is with some people, no matter what you give … it’s never enough.”
Last week Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak told National Public Radio that Nevada had received “zero” test kits from the federal government and not enough medical gear.
Asked about the claim, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told the Review-Journal on background, “As part of the U.S. government’s COVID-19 response, a lab diagnostic task force has been established to help facilitate coordination across the U.S. government, as well as among diverse stakeholders in public health, manufacturing, and logistics. The goal is to better leverage the nation’s testing capacity and help to more strategically address supply chain issues as they emerge.”
As for ventilators and personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns, the official responded, “For the domestic response to COVID-19, HHS is deploying personal protective equipment and ventilators from the (national stockpile) to areas in need in the most equitable way for a nationwide response.”