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Updated at 6:37 p.m. ET
President Trump has told governors that his administration is working on issuing guidelines that state and local governments should use to determine if social distancing rules should be increased or relaxed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The announcement came before the regular White House press conference on its response to the pandemic.
Trump is under pressure to restart part of the dying economy, blocked by soaring unemployment while workers are asked to stay at home and businesses close.
Almost 3.3 million people have officially filed for unemployment and the total number could be even higher. The president said on Thursday that he hoped the hardship from the economic shock would be temporary.
“It is no one’s fault, certainly not in this country,” he said. “I think you will see a very rapid turnaround once we have a victory over the hidden enemy, as I said. ”
The President has pushed for his vision of a transitional period in which the pandemic’s mitigation takes place at the same time as an economic recovery.
To this end, Trump has told governors in his letter that the administration will use extensive test data for the virus in counties classified as high, medium, or low risk. This data will guide the “next phase” of the pandemic response, he said.
Trump has said he would like people in parts of the country who have not experienced massive epidemics to be able to return to work, perhaps around April 12. He did not provide details of the dates in his letter.
What Trump said during the White House briefing was that he envisioned a transitional period in which parts of the United States could begin to return to normal while observing certain mitigation measures.
“As soon as we open it doesn’t mean you’re going to stop with the directions. ”
Some of them, he suggested, could translate into a positive public health outcome.
“Maybe people won’t shake hands anymore,” said Trump.
US infections overtake China
The White House briefing took place on the same day that official statistics indicate that the United States has recorded more cases of coronavirus than China.
The count exceeded 82,000 Thursday evening, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The number of Chinese cases was just below that number.
So far, about 1,200 Americans have died in the pandemic, according to data compilation.
Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said that 19 of the 50 states have fewer than 200 cases – she called it “extraordinarily low numbers” for those states.
She said 55% of all cases and 55% of all new cases are in metropolitan New York. She said she was concerned about the increase in numbers in Wayne County in Michigan and Cook County near Chicago, suggesting that these places could become future hot spots.
Fauci: Tests could identify areas of opportunity
Dr. Anthony Fauci, immunologist and key member of the White House Coronavirus Working Group, told Noel King of NPR Morning Edition this increase in testing could help regions of the country that are not currently experiencing epidemics to trace and isolate cases.
But he warned that testing is still progressing.
“To be honest, we don’t have all of this data now consistently across the country to make these determinations,” said Fauci. “But it is a main and major goal that we have right now, is to get this data, because you have to make informed decisions and your decisions are informed by the information you have. ”
Trump’s letter followed a day after the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $ 2 trillion economic rescue plan. The House is expected to vote on the bill by the end of the week.
Once the legislation is passed and Trump signed it, as he promised, the Treasury Department should start cutting checks directly to many American families and unlock hundreds of billions of dollars for hospitals and claimants. healthcare as well as for affected businesses. by the shock of social distancing.
Hospital ship sailing on Saturday
The USNS Comfort naval hospital ship is scheduled to depart Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday for New York, Trump said. The president suggested that he could go to Norfolk to watch the ship leave.
Comfort is expected to dock at Pier 90 in New York on Monday, Trump said, and offer more treatment capacity to public health officials.
Comfort could either take some coronavirus patients to the place most affected by the virus, or bring patients with other problems to free hospitals in the city or region to focus on the pandemic. Trump said it was not yet clear, “We will see how they do it. ”
Comfort’s brother, the hospital ship USNS Mercy, has been deployed to Los Angeles to provide capacity.