The number of U.S. cases of the coronavirus topped 280 on Friday, up from the 64 reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one week earlier.
As more Americans have been tested for the virus, the number of cases has steadily risen. President Trump has continued to portray the situation as under control.
“I think we’re in great shape, I mean I think we’re in great shape,” he told reporters gathered at the White House on Friday.
Trump added that his decision to halt travel between the United States and China had prevented further spread of the virus. “We made a good move. We closed it down. We stopped it,” he said.
The Trump administration announced its China travel restrictions on Jan. 31. By then, the virus had sickened nearly 10,000 people in China and killed 213. A study published Friday in the journal Science found that while international travel bans have delayed the spread of the virus, they have ultimately failed to prevent the rise in new cases.
During a Feb. 27 press conference at the White House, when the number of known cases in the U.S. had risen to 60, Trump asserted that the figure was “going very substantially down, not up,” and that “within a couple of days” the tally would be “down close to zero.”
Since that press conference, 15 Americans have died in the U.S. of the virus, which has infected over 100,000 people worldwide and resulted in more than 3,300 deaths around the world.
The administration has continued to give a rosy assessment of the health risks to the country.
“What I am pleased to report, is that the 14 deaths so far, that are completely tragic and very sad, in this country shows that this is being contained because the president took action,” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told reporters Friday at the White House.
Earlier in the day, White House national economic director Larry Kudlow described the outbreak in the U.S. in similar terms.
“We don’t actually know what the magnitude of the virus is going to be, although frankly so far it looks relatively contained,” Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC.
As businesses across the country have begun canceling scheduled events and telling employees to work from home, Kudlow, who has been named a member of the Coronavirus Task Force, offered opposing advice.
“I don’t want to downplay anything. Worry about the effect on human beings, for heaven’s sake. But I’m just saying, let’s not overreact. In many ways, America should stay at work,” Kudlow said.
When asked about Google’s decision to cancel its annual conference due to the threat posed by the coronavirus, Trump also sought to find a silver lining.
“That’s up to them. Hey, let them stay in the United States. If they don’t travel, if they stay here, that’s not a bad thing for us. I — I’ve been saying for a long time people should do that.”
Calling in to Sean Hannity’s Fox News program on Wednesday, Trump disputed the World Health Organization’s estimate that the coronavirus death rate could be as high as 3.4 percent, and seemed to say that while “hundreds of thousands” of Americans might be infected with the virus, workplace exposure was not a primary concern.
“So if, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work but they get better,” Trump said.
The president later disputed that he had encouraged anyone feeling sick to go to work.
I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work. This is just more Fake News and disinformation put out by the Democrats, in particular MSDNC. Comcast covers the CoronaVirus situation horribly, only looking to do harm to the incredible & successful effort being made!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2020
Health officials agree on the need for widespread testing.
Vice President Mike Pence vowed that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week, but the Atlantic reported Friday that it could verify the test had been given to just 1,895 people in the U.S. so far. Of that number, 10 percent had tested positive for the virus.
The CDC’s initial test was found to be flawed, resulting in false negatives.
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