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Trump news: President claims victory over coronavirus and says he's reopening in Easter because 'it's a beautiful time' - not on expert advice

President pushes for return to business as usual within weeks as US deaths climb and New York declared an epicentre of transmission for US

Chris Riotta,Joe Sommerlad,Alex Woodward
Tuesday 24 March 2020 23:21 GMT
Expert calls Trump's corovirus tweet 'bogus'

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns the US could be the next coronavirus epicentre following a surge in cases and deaths to 43,925 cases and 547 respectively, Donald Trump is under fire for hinting at a return to business as usual within weeks, prioritising the health of the economy over that of Americans.

“We are watching a train wreck in slow motion,” commented former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub. “If Trump carries through on this threat to ‘open’ things up real soon, the death toll will be catastrophic.”

On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic senators have assured the public they are “very close” to agreeing terms on a $2trn (£1.7trn) stimulus bill and expect to finalise a deal on Tuesday.

The president appeared to declare victory over the virus — "we win" — as he looks to restart the US economy by Easter, despite no evidence that Americans can safely return to work without spreading the virus within three weeks.

During his White House briefing on Tuesday, the president said: "What timeline this would be."

But pressed on whether anyone in his administration has supported a rushed return to business as usual, the president said he thought it was a "beautiful time" and "based on a certain level of weeks" — but didn't say it was at the recommendation of health officials.

The administration also warned New Yorkers and anyone who recently travelled to the state to self-quarantine for up to two weeks as the city has become an "epicentre" of transmission in the US.

Asked whether the president has consulted with Governor Andrew Cuomo about those guidelines, which would impact millions of people in New York City while non-essential businesses are closed across the state, Mr Trump said the two are "talking".

The governor said he has "exhausted every option available to us" as the state has experienced a surge in confirmed cases, including nearly 15,000 in New York City alone.

"We are not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own", he said on Tuesday as he dismissed the president's idea for Americans to return to work soon for the sake of the economy, potentially endangering more-vulnerable people and spreading the virus even further.

He said: "That's not the American way. That's not the New York way."

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in the US and the Donald Trump administration's response to it.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 09:45

US death toll from coronavirus outbreak lurches towards 550

The number of Americans killed by the coronavirus outbreak is up to 541 this morning from 43,500 cases, reports CNN.

With Hawaii recording its first death from the disease yesterday, 16 states have now issued stay-at-home orders, which, once in effect, will impact 142m people or 43 per cent of the US population

"This is going to get much worse before it gets better," New York governor Andrew Cuomo warned on Monday, his state remaining one of the hardest hit in the union, with BIg Apple hospitals under severe strain as a result of the crisis and facing a shortage of medical supplies.

You can follow a live international overview of the crisis with my colleague Jon Sharman via the link below, with the world now on 381,000 cases of the disease.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 10:00

Trump attacked for prioritising economy over citizens' lives as he toys with 'reopening' country within weeks

The US president is under fire this morning for hinting at a return to business as usual within weeks, prioritising the health of the economy over that of American citizens.

"We can't have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump told reporters at a press briefing on Monday, echoing a tweet he sent late on Sunday.

"We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."

Trump acknowledged there were trade-offs, but claimed, without apparent evidence, that if closures stretched on for months there would be "probably more death from that than anything that we're talking about with respect to the virus".

  “We are watching a train wreck in slow motion,” commented former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub. “If Trump carries through on this threat to ‘open’ things up real soon, the death toll will be catastrophic.”

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb and ex-Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert both posted lengthy Twitter rants about the possible move, while Steve Bannon also warned against it in an interview on Maria Bartiromo's Fox Business show.

All three men once had the ear of Trump.

The president's remarks were further evidence that Trump has grown impatient with the pandemic, even before it has reached its expected peak.

In recent days, tensions have been rising between those who argue the country needs to get back up and running to prevent a deep economic depression and medical experts who warn that, unless more extreme action is taken, the human cost will be catastrophic.

Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction - staying home from work and isolating themselves - the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths.

While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.

But with the economic impact now snapping into focus with millions out of work, businesses shut and stock markets in freefall - all undermining Trump's re-election message - the chorus of backlash is growing louder.

"We can't shut in the economy. The economic cost to individuals is just too great," Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, said in an interview on Monday on Fox News.

"The president is right. The cure can'tbe worse than the disease, and we're going to have to make some difficult trade-offs."

That opinion has been echoed by others in the White House, some Republicans in Congress and on Fox, where host Steve Hilton delivered a monologue on Sunday night that appeared to have, at least partially, inspired Trump's tweet.

"You know that famous phrase, the cure is worse than the disease? That is exactly the territory we're hurtling towards," Hilton told his viewers, describing the economic, social and human impact of the shutdown as an "even bigger crisis" than the virus.

"You think it's just the coronavirus that kills people? This total economic shutdown will kill people," he said, pointing to growing poverty and despair.

The White House, which for the last two weeks has largely allowed doctors to lead the administration's response, already seemed to be shifting in that direction.

"I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now," Trump said on Monday, adding America would soon be back open for business.

He added, however, that states could continue to enforce stricter measures.

Trump tweeted that he would be waiting until the end of the current 15-day period of recommended closures and self-isolation to make any decisions.

At the same time, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was exploring new guidance making it possible for people working in "critical infrastructure" jobs who have been exposed to the virus to return to work faster "by wearing a mask for a certain period of time," vice president Mike Pence said.

Here's John T Bennett's report.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 10:15

US seeing 'very large acceleration' in coronavirus cases and could become epicentre, warns WHO

As Trump fails to reassure the public with vaguely-worded tweets like this...

...the World Health Organisation has issued a dire new warning regarding the surge in cases in the United States. 

Samuel Osborne has the latest.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 10:35

Trump calls for protection of Asian Americans after his use of 'Chinese virus' blamed for rise in racism

This is pretty rich from the president.

After a week of referring to the outbreak as "the Chinese Virus" and denying the term was racist, he's now calling for an end to racially-motivated attacks on Asian Americans, washing his hands of all responsibility once again.

If that about-turn doesn't inspire confidence, check out this extraordinary exchange about the White House press lobby during yesterday's press conference.

Andrew Buncombe has this report on the latest consequences of the president's bigotry.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 10:55

Stimulus rescue package deal 'very close' say senators as tensions mount

On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic senators have assured the public they are “very close” to agreeing terms on a $2trn (£1.7trn) stimulus bill and expect to finalise a deal on Tuesday. 

  Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said they had spoken by phone with President Trump during the long night of negotiations. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some remain.

At midnight on Monday, they emerged separately to say talks would continue into the night.

"We look forward to having a deal tomorrow," Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer's office.

"The president is giving us direction," he continued. "The president would like to have a deal, and he's hopeful we can conclude this."

Moments later, Schumer agreed that a deal was almost within reach. "That's the expectation - that we finish it tomorrow and hopefully vote on it tomorrow evening," he said.

The long evening of shuttle negotiations came after a long day trying to close the deal. The massive package is a far-reaching effort to prop up the US economy, help American households and bolster the health care system amid the growing crisis.

Tensions flared on Monday as Washington strained to respond to the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

"It's time to get with the programme, time to pass historic relief," said an angry Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell earlier in the day as he opened the chamber after a nonstop weekend session that failed to produce a deal. "This is a national emergency."

Fuming, McConnell warned Democrats - pointedly House speaker Nancy Pelosi - to quit stalling on "political games," as he described Democratic efforts to steer more of the aid toward public health and workers, and push other priorities.

Trump, who has largely been hands off from the negotiations, weighed in late on Monday from the White House briefing room, declaring that Congress should vote "for the Senate bill as written," dismissing any Democratic proposal.

"It must go quickly," Trump said. "This is not the time for political agendas."


In response, Pelosi assailed Trump's idea and fluctuating response to the crisis.

"He's a notion-monger, just tossing out things that have no relationship to a well-coordinated, science-based, government-wide response to this," Pelosi said on a health care conference call. "Thank God for the governors who are taking the lead in their state. Thank God for some of the people in the administration who speak truth to power."

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 11:15

Trump retweets viral video of Dr Fauci looking unimpressed by his 'Deep State Department' joke

The president has been busy retweeting right-wing nut jobs James Woods and Ann Coulter this morning as well as this meme, which he seems to have completely misunderstood in his fever of self-delusion.

 "I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down," the doc said of his dealings with Trump to the medical journal Science yesterday, after repeatedly being seen having to correct his assertion's in press briefings.

It was just weeks ago that Trump made a similar error involving a key scene from the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm involving an angry biker and a MAGA hat.

Incidentally, here's Richard Hall's profile of the good doctor, whose authority has provided a comfort to many and whose absence from yesterday's briefing struck alarm bells.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 11:30

Trump signs executive order against hoarding and price gouging of medical supplies as first lady tests negative

Two developments at the White House yesterday that are worth addressing.

Trump signed the following order to rein in the stockpiling of much-needed medical resources.


...while the first lady, Melania Trump, tested negative for the coronavirus, although some remain sceptical about how honest the White House is being about these results, having given the president, Mike and Karen Pence and Ivanka a clean bill of health in recent days.

Admitting anyone in the administration had contracted the disease would be a major step and surely risk sparking panic.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 11:50

Incredibly, Trump continuing to promote cronies' books as global crisis rages

On another weird day for Trump's Twitter feed, the president has said the Defense Production Act "is in full force" and attacked the Democrats for stalling the stimulus package (as he sees it). 


Otherwise though, he's been posting Pelosi memes, tweeting to actress Kirstie Alley and promoting books by his army of alt-right sycophants.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 12:10

Texas lieutenant governor attacked for suggesting American grandparents willing to 'die for the Dow'

Say hello to Republican Dan Patrick, who made that appalling "dulce et decorum est" pronouncement on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show late last night.

His thoughts on the patriotic elderly being willing to die for the good of the economy and their grandchildren's futures enraged Twitter in predictable fashion, with his fellow statesman Beto O'Rourke among those going in hard.

Here's Andrew Naughtie with more.

Joe Sommerlad24 March 2020 12:30

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