As the number of coronavirus fatalities soars in the United States and health experts warn that no area will be spared by the outbreak, President Donald Trump is steeling the nation for an extended shutdown through the end of April.
“Well, it’s so bad for the economy, but the economy is No. 2 on my list,” Trump said on Monday. “First, I want to save a lot of lives.”
Monday was the first day that the U.S. death toll grew by more than 500, according to data compiled by The Washington Post, with almost half of those fatalities in New York. As of early Tuesday, more than 160,500 cases had been reported across the country.
Trump said the United States has administered more than 1 million tests, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said authorities are testing 100,000 samples a day.
In New York, where more than 1,000 people have died, the state’s known death rate is around 1 percent, health officials said. But the actual rate may be lower, because priority is being given to those who are exhibiting clear symptoms or have compromised health.
Even after Congress passed an unprecedented economic relief package last week, Monday brought fresh evidence of economic pain due to the virus: Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap said they would furlough tens of thousands of workers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that lawmakers are considering new bills focused on infrastructure, protections for front-line workers and funding for the District of Columbia, which was treated as a territory — not as a state, as it usually is in similar pieces of legislation.
And the Justice Department is investigating the possibility that at least one member of Congress, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), sought to protect his investments from the economic downturn sparked by the outbreak. As Burr received frequent briefings on the threat, he sold 33 stocks estimated to be worth between $628,033 and $1.7 million.