Trump says he won't extend distancing guidelines as death toll passes 60,000

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US death toll at 60,207 as Trump delivers an update assessment and Jared Kushner says response is ‘a great success story’

Donald Trump has said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday, even as the number of Americans who have died of coronavirus surpassed 60,000.

The country has recorded 60,207 deaths from coronavirus, and 1,030,487 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the US according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US accounts for around one third of all confirmed cases worldwide.

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World news | The Guardian

Donald Trump has said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday, even as the number of Americans who have died of coronavirus surpassed 60,000.

The country has recorded 60,207 deaths from coronavirus, and 1,030,487 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the US according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US accounts for around one-third of all confirmed cases worldwide.

The US has now lost more people to coronavirus than the Vietnam war. Over the country’s nearly two decades of involvement in Vietnam, 58,220 Americans were killed.

The death toll will continue to climb in the coming weeks, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates the current death toll may represent an undercount.

Putting a positive face on the latest grim numbers, Trump delivered his daily upbeat update and his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, described the administration’s much-criticized response to the pandemic as “a great success story”.

Trump also talked up hopeful preliminary results for the experimental drug remdesivir as a possible Covid-19 treatment, news of which saw financial markets soar. That came on the same day the government announced dismal new economic numbers.

The figures revealed the US economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate in the first quarter of the year – a precursor to far grimmer reports that are expected this summer from the severe recession triggered by the pandemic.

The White House has been trying to pivot to a new stage of the crisis, focused on efforts to reopen the nation’s economy state-by-state amid concerns that lifting restrictions too quickly and without sufficient testing and contact tracing will spur a resurgence.

As part of that effort, Trump, who has both threatened to force states to reopen and said decisions will be left to them, said the White House will not be extending its “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines when they expire on Thursday.

“They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as he met with John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor of Louisiana.

Those guidelines – which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended an additional 30 – encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel and advised older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.

Vice-President Mike Pence said the guidelines have been incorporated into the new guidance issued by the White House earlier this month that lays out how states can gradually ease restrictions and begin to reopen as the rate of new cases slows.

Edwards, who recently extended Louisiana’s stay-at-home order through 15 May, is currently under fire from Republican lawmakers in his state after he extended the order .

But Trump commended Edwards on the job he has done after New Orleans became one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots. “I just wanted to congratulate you,” Trump said.

The White House on Wednesday was also pointing to remdesivir, which proved effective against the virus in a new preliminary study run by the National Institutes of Health, which found that it shortened the time it took for coronavirus patients to recover by four days on average.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said the drug reduced the time it takes patients to recover by 31% – 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care. Fauci warned the results of the study still need to be properly peer-reviewed, but expressed unusual optimism, saying that Remdesivir would become “the standard of care” for Covid-19 patients.

“It’s highly significant,” said the usually cautious doctor. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

A Chinese trial had previously demonstrated no “significant clinical benefits” to administering the antiviral drug Remdesivir to Covid-19 patients. Fauci said the Chinese test, which had to be halted early for a lack of subjects, was “not an adequate study”. The US-led trial is the largest to investigate remdesivir.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci leads, is expected to release a detailed summary of the results soon. While it is not yet possible to quantify the drug’s effectiveness, the trial would represent the first time any medication has been shown to improve outcomes.

Despite the positive messaging from the White House, a new poll indicated most Americans are still not ready to reopen the country. The PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll showed large majorities are uncomfortable with reopening schools or restaurants unless coronavirus testing is significantly expanded.

The US has dramatically increased its testing after a slow and rocky start, many health experts say the country still must do more – as many as 5m a day – to safely reopen the economy. Otherwise, they warn, cases will rise sharply as Americans return to work, creating another deadly spike. Trump has dismissed that recommended number, calling it unnecessary and a “media trap”.

Meanwhile Kushner, who has been helping with the effort to get medical supplies to states that need them, suggested in an interview with Fox & Friends that the federal government has accomplished its mission.

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this. And I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So the federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story,” he said.

The administration, he added, is preparing the country to “get as close back to normal as possible as quickly as possible”, and said that by July the country would be “really rocking again”.


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