President Donald Trump said that the White House’s social distancing guidelines will be extended until April 30, backing off an earlier goal of lifting by Easter the coronavirus restrictions that have shut down much of the U.S. economy.
Trump’s remarks came on the advice of medical professionals who are a part of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the task force.
“The modeling estimates that the peak and death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” Trump said. “…Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all.”
While the decision to extend the guidelines for more than 30 days was the sobering news of the press conference, the 90-minute event was in many ways typical Trump: frequent sparring with reporters and boasting of the ratings he’s gotten for the nightly events. And he suggested some kind of conspiracy theory over why hospitals are going through so many masks. Trump noted that hospitals have gone from needing 10,000 to 20,000 to 300,000 masks “even though this is different.”
“Check it out. It might be hoarding. It’s probably worse than hoarding,” Trump said.
He also sparred with two reporters — Yamiche Alcindor of PBS NewsHour and Jeremy Diamond of CNN — after each asked him questions about remarks he had made last week and attempted to read his quotes back to him.
Trump got visibly angry when Alcindor brought up a comment that he made on Fox News’ Hannity on Thursday. At that time, he questioned why some states needed so many ventilators. “I don’t believe that you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said.
Trump at first denied saying that he said that, but then complained, “Why don’t you act a little more positive? It’s always trying to get you. Getcha. Getcha. That’s why nobody trusts the media anymore….Let me tell you something: Be nice. Don’t be threatening.”
Trump insisted that they “are producing tremendous numbers of ventilators.”
He called Alcindor a “fine journalist” but said, “we’re all on the same team.”
When Alcindor tried to ask a followup, her mic was turned off and a White House aide then gave it to another reporter.
Then, when Trump called on CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, he handed the mic to Alcindor to ask her follow up. She asked which health professionals were telling him more people would die from the economic fallout from the coronavirus than the actual disease.
Diamond asked him about Trump’s comment, from Friday’s news conference, that he wanted governors to appreciate his and his administration’s efforts on the coronavirus. Then, Trump said that Vice President Mike Pence “calls all the governors. I said Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington. You are wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.”
“You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
Diamond tried to read the quote back to him, but Trump interjected, “But I didn’t say that.”
Trump then again called CNN “fake news.” He added that he doesn’t call the governors if he doesn’t like them, but that Pence or someone else will.
“I want them to appreciate the incredible job we are going,” he said.
Later, Trump again slammed CNN, contending that the ratings for his press conferences have boosted their ratings. Earlier in the day, he sent out a tweet. partially quoting from a New York Times story on the ratings that the daily coronavirus briefings have drawn. Trump tweeted the quote, “President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.'” The story, in fact, said, “President Trump is a ratings hit, and some journalists and public health experts say that could be a dangerous thing.”