Trump Promises New Guidelines For Reopening The Country

Apr 16, 2020
Originally published on April 17, 2020 8:06 am

Worldwide total confirmed cases: 2,063,161

Total deaths: 136,938

U.S. total confirmed cases: 638,111

Confirmed U.S. deaths: 30,844

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, as of 11:35 p.m. ET Wednesday

President Trump is promising to deliver on Thursday guidelines to "reopen" America. He said some states would open even before May 1. That's two weeks away.

Without citing evidence, he claimed at the White House coronavirus task force briefing Wednesday that the U.S. is past its peak on new coronavirus cases. That's likely premature. While the total number of cases may be slowing, it's not true for all parts of the country. And because there are so many cases in New York, the beginning of a decline there is skewing the curve. What's more, the total number of cases continues to rise.

The danger is if the country moves to shedding social distancing and stay-at-home orders too quickly, there likely would be another spike. What's more, testing is still not widespread enough to have a whole picture of who has the virus and who doesn't.

Wednesday briefing in brief

President Trump after Wednesday's daily briefing on the novel coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House.
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images

In case you missed it, here are highlights from the White House coronavirus task force's daily briefing.

  1. Antibody tests: Trump said tests will be available in coming weeks. He noted that one test is being developed by Abbott Labs. "It's a great test," Trump said, adding that it could be available to screen up to 20 million people in a matter of weeks.
  2. Ventilators: General Motors will be rolling the first ventilators off the line from a plant in Kokomo, Ind., Trump said, adding that it will ship 600 this month. Then the president played a video from GM showing the process of building the ventilators. It was essentially an ad created by and for GM. After the video, the president decided to jab at the press. "I know you got a little bit nervous when you saw there was a clip about to be played," Trump said. That was a reference to a campaign-style video attacking the media that the president played in the briefing room Monday.
  3. WHO's right? The point Trump keeps coming back to about the World Health Organization and coronavirus is, "They didn't want us to close our borders to China, to Wuhan." It's true that WHO discouraged border closures, but that's not the whole story. There is plenty of legitimate criticism of the WHO going around, but an NPR timeline of what Trump and WHO representatives were saying over the past few months finds that in late January and early February, the WHO began ringing alarm bells about the coronavirus, while Trump was downplaying it.
  4. Can the president adjourn Congress? Trump was upset because he wants more judges confirmed (even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has gotten through a record number of federal judges) and because he wants more of his nominees to head agencies confirmed (even though the Republican-controlled Senate is responsible for confirming nominees). Trump threatened to adjourn Congress and make recess appointments if they wouldn't agree. "If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress. And perhaps it's never been done before, nobody is even sure if it has, but we're going to do it." So can he actually do it? Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution gives the president the ability to convene and adjourn Congress, but adjournment appears to be only "in Case of Disagreement between" the two chambers on when to do so.
  5. "Developing" story: "We are a developing nation," Trump said of the United States. That's not true. It's not the first time Trump has said this. In an attempt to say the U.S. shouldn't have to pay aid to less-wealthy countries, he said during a rally in 2018: "They are considered nations that aren't mature, so we pay them. You know, they call them developing nations. Well, we are a developing nation, too."

Countries' economies are organized into three categories — developed, transitioning and developing. The U.S. is the wealthiest country on Earth and is firmly in the developed category. The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, lists developing countries. The U.S. is not on it.

Quote of the briefing

"I'm sure people will be very happy to get a big, fat, beautiful check and my name is on it."

— Trump, after claiming he has no idea why his name is on stimulus checks that are going out

Other key coronavirus stories

Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark: The state of antibody testing comes under examination as Americans wait for easier access and accurate results.

'We Alerted The World' To Coronavirus On Jan. 5, WHO Says In Response To U.S.: The World Health Organization defends its role in sounding the alarm about COVID-19, following President Trump's decision to halt its federal funding.

Where Did This Coronavirus Originate? Virus Hunters Find Genetic Clues In Bats: Catch up on the latest episode of NPR's science podcast Short Wave for a deep dive into how COVID-19 may have first begun.

What to watch today

  • Trump unveils his guidelines to reopen the country. 5 p.m. ET.
  • Trump speaks to governors about the coronavirus. 3 p.m. ET.
  • Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden appears on a CNN Global town hall at 8 p.m. ET, a day after criticizing Trump for not wearing a mask in public.

Go deeper: past the peak?

Trump said the United States has passed its peak in new COVID-19 cases. He also cited declines in large cities significantly affected by the virus. "The battle continues, but the data suggests that nationwide, we have passed the peak on new cases," Trump claimed. "Hopefully that will continue and we will continue to make great progress."

The data, though, is mixed. While the number of daily cases overall nationally appears to have started to decrease, the total cases continue to rise.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows a drop in new cases nationally starting April 10, followed by an uptick, though not back up to the high of April 10. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not firmly indicated a decline longer than one day on April 3. That said, both trackers indicate that national cumulative totals continue to rise.

The United States is projected to have already peaked in daily death rates and hospital supplies when looking at models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Specifically, the highest number of deaths occurred on April 13, the team predicts, and hospital resources (beds and ventilators) were most heavily utilized on April 10.

Trump cited the decline in new cases in the New York City metropolitan area — one of the hardest-hit places in the country. The area has seen a drop in its number of total cases since April 6, according to the New York City Department of Health. Though, like the CDC, the city's department of health warns that recent data is incomplete because of reporting delays. Looking at the IHME model for the state, April 10 may have been the peak for deaths per day for New York. Looking at STAT's info, the number of new cases rose in the state on April 15.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.