The White House coronavirus task force still won’t call for a national stay-at-home order, despite calls from medical professionals and researchers to do so to curb the spread of the virus in places.
As Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx explained during Tuesday night’s task force update that the total number of deaths in the U.S. could rise to 100,000 to 240,000, President Donald Trump avoided explaining why the administration hasn’t imposed a stay-at-home order yet.
Instead, Trump talked about how the death toll would have reached up to 2 million people if he had done nothing at all.
“What would’ve happened if we did nothing? Because there was a group that said, ‘Let’s just ride it out,’” the president said. “What would’ve happened? That number comes in at 1.5 to 1.6 million, up to 2.2 … 2.2 million people would have died.”
“You would have seen people dying on airplanes,” he added. “You would’ve seen people dying in hotel lobbies. You’d be seeing death all over.”
Earlier in the pandemic, Trump dismissed the severity of the virus and compared it to the flu. On March 9, Trump compared numbers of people who died of the flu in 2019 to the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths at that time.
On Tuesday, as the national death toll from the virus skyrocketed to 3,700, the president admitted that the coronavirus outbreak was worse than the flu.
Public health experts have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to worsen if the Trump administration does not take strict action and order all Americans to stay at home.
According to a tally kept by The Washington Post, governors in more than a dozen states are refusing to issue their own statewide orders, even as numbers of COVID-19 cases grow exponentially in their areas.
Florida, for example, has more than 5,000 cases, though Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has called on only four counties in South Florida to abide by stay-at-home orders. DeSantis said at his own news conference Tuesday that he was waiting for the White House task force to recommend that to him first.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has suggested that her residents stay at home “as much as possible,” but she did not issue a statewide order.
Despite governors looking to the White House for guidance, Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the task force, still said Tuesday that the administration was deferring any type of mitigation measures to “state and local health authorities.”
During the White House news conference, Birx said that states, such as California and Washington, who had issued mitigation orders very early on in their outbreaks had been able to slow the outbreak dramatically.
Those states “really talked to their communities and decided to mitigate before they started seeing this number of cases,” Birx said.
“Now we know that makes a big difference,” she added. “If you wait ’til you see it, it’s too late.”