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Trump praises Newsom, Cuomo for stay-home orders

Updated March 20, 2020 - 3:47 pm

WASHINGTON — President Trump applauded California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who ordered residents to “shelter in place,” and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who announced all nonessential workers must stay home, saying the two leaders were “taking very bold steps.”

But the president rejected the notion of a national lockdown to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump said while California and New York, the nation’s two hottest spots, had instituted extreme self-distancing measures, if “you go out to the Midwest, you go out to other locations and they’re watching it on television, but they don’t have the same problems.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also praised Cuomo and Newsom’s actions during the daily briefing of the president’s coronavirus task force.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Americans abroad to “arrange for immediate return to the United States unless they’re prepared to remain abroad for an extended time.”

The administration announced reciprocal agreements with Canada and Mexico to bar nonessential travel at the border starting at midnight.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf also said that federal immigration authorities would begin “immediately returning individuals arriving without documentation to Canada, Mexico, as well as a number of other countries without delay.”

Fauci, who has become the administration’s public face of the medical community, lent his credibility to the border action as essential to keeping new infections from entering the country.

Trump and Fauci gave different takes on whether malaria drugs can be used as therapy or a prophylaxis against COVID-19. Fauci said that reports of hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy are “anecdotal.” But Trump said that while Fauci gave a correct answer, “I feel good about” the drug.

Fauci replied that more data will be needed. “It probably is going to be safe, but I like to prove things first,” he said.

When NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander asked Trump what he had to say to Americans who are scared, Trump told Alexander he is “a terrible reporter” who deals in sensationalism.

Later when Alexander asked the same question of Vice President Mike Pence, the administration’s lead figure against the outbreak, Pence responded, “Do not be afraid. Be vigilant.”

Before the briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the government would move the deadline for paying federal taxes from April 15 to July 15 — a move that will allow taxpayers and businesses to file late without incurring interest charges or penalties.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at daunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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