WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the White House’s coronavirus task force provided an update on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic at 5 p.m. ET Thursday.
Watch the press conference below:
During the briefing, President Donald Trump announced that the Navy’s hospital ship USNS Comfort will be leaving Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday and head to New York City, three weeks before it was expected to disembark. The president said he would personally see the ship off.
Once in New York, non-coronavirus patients will be treated on the ship, freeing up much needed hospital space in the state, which has become an epicenter in the U.S.
When asked about the U.S. now leading the world in the number of COVID-19 cases, President Donald Trump pointed to the testing being done in America, and he suggested there were more cases in China than the country is reporting.
Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, warned of new hot spots developing in the Detroit and Chicago areas, but she tried to be reassuring. She said 19 states that represent about 40% of the American population still have fewer than 200 cases of COVID-19 and of the people with significant symptoms who are being tested nationwide, 86% are testing negative.
The briefing came after Trump announced that federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread. He wants to begin easing nationwide guidelines meant to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter Thursday to the nation's governors, Trump says the new guidelines are meant to enable state and local leaders to make “decisions about maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other measures they have put in place.” States would still have authority to set restrictions.
Trump has been seeking for days to determine how to contain the economic fallout of the guidelines issued by his administration as well as local leaders to slow the tide of infections.
Meanwhile, the number of people around the world who have contracted coronavirus reached 500,000 on Thursday, and U.S. deaths from the pandemic have now topped 1,000. The global death toll climbed past 22,000 and Spanish and Italian medical workers are at breaking point.
They are the latest grim milestones for a global outbreak that is taking lives and wreaking havoc on economies.
In the U.S., the Senate has unanimously passed an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems.
The legislation now goes to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it will gain final approval Friday and will be sent to Trump to be signed into law.