The Trump administration claimed Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic that has been spreading like wildfire is showing signs of slowing down.
“There does appear to be evidence of leveling, evidence of progress,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a White House press briefing.
New cases have slowed from 33,000 a day to 29,000 each day, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Some 390,000 people have been infected in the United States as of Tuesday night, and 12,700 have died.
Pence credited social distancing with slowing the spread, calling the latest tallies “glimmers of hope.”
“This is exactly the time for all of us to redouble our efforts to do everything each and every one of us can to … lessen the impact of the coronavirus on America as a whole,” the vice president said.
The administration nevertheless expects New York City, the worst-hit area in the country, to reach the peak of its outbreak this week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 731 people had died since Monday, the most yet in one day.
Yet, the number of new cases fell in the state, suggesting that restrictions imposed two weeks ago have worked. It takes weeks for infected people to fall sick, require hospitalization, and die. This means deaths lag behind the status of the outbreak.
China, months ahead of America in the pandemic, eased restrictions Tuesday. Authorities lifted the 11-week lockdown in Wuhan, letting residents travel in and out of the city where the coronavirus started, the Associated Press reported. Roughly 11 million Wuhan residents may now move about the city freely as long as a mandatory smartphone surveillance app shows they have not come into contact with someone infected with the virus.
President Trump threatened to withhold funds from the World Health Organization, which he said was “very China-centric.” The WHO was “wrong about a lot of things,” he said, including in opposing his ban on travel from China in January.
Concerns have begun, perhaps inevitably, to be expressed about racial disparities in the pandemic. Black people are disproportionately infected. White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that “it’s very sad” that black people are more likely to fall seriously ill with the virus because more of them have diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma. The pandemic is “shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is,” he said.
Congress and the administration want to expand relief for small businesses and workers beyond what was done in the “phase three” virus response bill. Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell aim to pass legislation Thursday to bolster the Small Business Administration program that provides forgivable loans to small businesses forced to close because of the pandemic. The Treasury Department wants another $ 200 billion for the program on top of the original $ 350 billion, as demand has been high in the past few days.
Trump fired a Pentagon official who was to oversee implementation of the $ 2.2 trillion relief package. The president has expressed irritation with inspectors general recently, triggering Democratic criticism and concern among Republicans. Last week, Trump removed Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned amid criticism of his description of Capt. Brett Crozier, former commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, as “naive” and “stupid” in an address to the ship’s crew. Modly fired Crozier on Thursday in response to Crozier’s written plea to Navy leaders for assistance with stopping a coronavirus outbreak on the ship.