Trump forms coun­cil to ‘open our coun­try’

DEATH TOLL CLIMBS Aides cau­tion May 1 tar­get may be too soon

Vancouver Sun - - PAN­DEMIC -

WASH­ING­TON • Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he’ll in­tro­duce on Tues­day a coun­cil of doc­tors and busi­ness peo­ple who will ad­vise his gov­ern­ment on how to re­open the econ­omy fol­low­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break.

“I call it the open­ing-our-coun­try task force, or open­ing our coun­try coun­cil,” he said at a White House news con­fer­ence on Fri­day.

He added that “I think it’s bi­par­ti­san” and that the group would in­clude “very, very great doc­tors and busi­ness peo­ple.”

Trump has sought to end econ­omy-crush­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing prac­tices that have curbed the spread of the coro­n­avirus as soon as prac­ti­ca­ble, though his aides have cau­tioned that May 1 may be too soon.

The pres­i­dent said on Fri­day that facts and rec­om­men­da­tions from health ex­perts will de­ter­mine the next steps taken to re­open the econ­omy.

Dr. An­thony Fauci, the gov­ern­ment’s top in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­pert and other health of­fi­cials pointed to de­clin­ing rates of coro­n­avirus hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and need for in­ten­sive care — par­tic­u­larly in hard­est-hit New York — as signs that so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures are pay­ing off.

“Now is no time to back off,” Fauci told CNN on Fri­day. “The virus will de­cide” when the coun­try can re­open, he added.

Those mea­sures con­tinue to take an enor­mous toll on the econ­omy — some econ­o­mists are fore­cast­ing job losses of up to 20 mil­lion in April.

How­ever, were U.S. of­fi­cials to lift shel­ter-in-place or­ders af­ter 30 days, the na­tion’s death to­tal could reach 200,000, the New York Times re­ported, cit­ing new pro­jec­tions from the de­part­ments of Home­land Se­cu­rity and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. An in­flu­en­tial univer­sity model this week had low­ered the U.S. death pro­jec­tion to 60,000 if so­cial dis­tanc­ing con­tin­ued.

The United States has by far the world’s most con­firmed coro­n­avirus cases, at more than 485,000, with more than 18,100 deaths. Only Italy has had more fa­tal­i­ties.

Af­ter three days of record daily death rates, New York State’s COVID-19 tally was 777 on Thurs­day, down from 799 deaths a day ear­lier, Gov. An­drew Cuomo re­ported on Fri­day. New York’s in­ten­sive care unit ad­mis­sions de­clined “for the first time since we started this jour­ney,” he said.

New York state has now recorded more than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19,

Per­haps nowhere was the grim cal­cu­lus of the pan­demic more ev­i­dent than on Hart Is­land, a pot­ter’s field at the western end of Long Is­land Sound, where con­tract labour­ers have been bury­ing two dozen bod­ies of COVID-19 vic­tims a day in pine cas­kets low­ered into freshly dug trenches.

Nor­mally, about 25 bod­ies are buried each Thurs­day on the is­land, but the num­ber has tripled in re­cent weeks, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions, the agency over­see­ing the buri­als.

The cas­kets, which bore names in­clud­ing “Abra­ham” and “Rogers,” were pic­tured be­ing lifted out of re­frig­er­ated trucks by in­mates from nearby Rik­ers Is­land jail.

In Michi­gan, more than 200 peo­ple died from COVID-19 in the last day. “We are not out of the woods yet,” Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer said.

At his daily White House brief­ing, how­ever, Trump said he was get­ting fewer calls from gov­er­nors ur­gently seek­ing equip­ment and help.

Mean­while, with more than 90 per cent of the coun­try un­der stay-at-home or­ders, the holi­est week­end on the Chris­tian cal­en­dar be­gan with ser­vices livestream­ed or broad­cast. Many churches sat empty on Good Fri­day, when they would typ­i­cally be over­flow­ing with wor­ship­pers.

“We gather nor­mally at Easter to wor­ship. We gather for chil­dren’s Easter egg hunts, for fam­ily meals, with friends. We can’t do any of that this year,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Mur­phy at his daily coro­n­avirus brief­ing.

A hand­ful of hold­out U.S. churches plan to hold ser­vices on Easter Sun­day, say­ing their right to wor­ship in per­son out­weighs pub­lic health of­fi­cials’ warn­ings that they may be spread­ing more than just the Gospel by hold­ing large gath­er­ings.

“Satan and a virus will not stop us,” said Rev. Tony Spell, pas­tor of the evan­gel­i­cal Life Taber­na­cle Church near Ba­ton Rouge, La. He ex­pects more than 2,000 to gather at his megachurch on Sun­day.

Google said it would work with Ap­ple to cre­ate con­tact trac­ing tech­nol­ogy that alerts peo­ple when they have been in close prox­im­ity with some­one who has tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

The rare col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the two Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies could ac­cel­er­ate us­age of apps that aim to get po­ten­tially in­fected in­di­vid­u­als into test­ing or quar­an­tine more quickly.

(A BI­PAR­TI­SAN COUN­CIL OF) VERY, VERY GREAT DOC­TORS AND BUSI­NESS PEO­PLE.

LU­CAS JACK­SON/ REUTERS

Bod­ies are buried Thurs­day on New York’s Hart Is­land where the de­part­ment of cor­rec­tions is deal­ing with more buri­als over­all amid the COVID-19 pan­demic.

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