Friday brought no shortage of pandemic news: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump publicly quarreled over coronavirus testing, China blamed a rising death toll on hospital errors, and stocks rebounded amid reports of possible emerging treatments for the virus.
After the president criticized Cuomo in a tweet for “complaining,” Cuomo charged that the president “doesn’t want to help on testing.”
“(Trump) said 11 times, ‘I don’t want to get involved in testing – it’s too hard, it’s too complicated,'” Cuomo said. “I know its too complicated, (he told Trump) that’s why we need you to help.”
Still, some locales were taking small steps toward reopening, with Jacksonville, Fla., allowing people to go to the beach twice a day under strict social distancing in the early morning and early evening.
Trump hosted Cuomo in the Oval Office on Tuesday, viewing it as opportunity to win over one of the most trusted voices on the virus response about the nation’s ability to conduct enough tests to ensure it has a handle on the matter.
Trump agreed to work with Cuomo to double his state’s testing capacity, believing that if the administration can earns the buy-in of Cuomo, other governors across the state will follow. Cuomo announced Wednesday that he is is enlisting former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to help create a massive “tracing army” that will find infected people and get them into isolation, a move toward building confidence among leery Americans.
At the White House, the administration is adjusting its posture away from drastic containment measures to managing virus “flareups” and bottlenecks in testing or supplies. And officials hope to use the daily White House briefings to inundate Americans with facts and figures on testing and therapeutics, blanketing television with graphics of flattening and declining curves and statistics on the number of testing kits available.
White House officials also are planning to step up travel in coming weeks as a visual representation of reopening.
Pence has traveled to Colorado and Wisconsin in recent days, and Trump is pushing aides to get him back on the road.
There are still plenty of caution flags. “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”
“We’ve got to be very careful,” Trump said Tuesday of a potential second wave, which in some predictions could hit just weeks before the November elections. “We don’t want that to happen; it could happen. I think we stamp it out if it does happen.”
Instead, White House aides hope that people accept a “new normal” that envisions short-term disruptions when there are COVID-19 cases, causing routine week-long school or office closures but not panic.
But Blendon said, “People will watch the cases and listen to the major public health leaders, and if there’s a conflict, that will slow things even greater.”
The latest fatality figures for the U.S., as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, pushed the total death toll in the country to over 36,000 by Friday evening. Numbers have fluctuated wildly this week for both U.S. and global deaths and it is unclear why; possible reasons include new counting methods for the dead in New York City and newly revised numbers in China. Thursday saw the biggest daily spike yet in U.S. deaths – 4,591 over the previous day.
There are over 692,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and over 2.2 million worldwide Friday, according to John Hopkins University data.