President Donald Trump on Saturday said that the federal government is deploying additional military personnel to New York City to respond to a rising number of coronavirus cases, even as he strongly reiterated his desire to see the country reopen.
Trump said at a White House press conference that an additional 1,000 military medical personnel will report to the city, which is struggling to keep up with the surge of COVID-19 cases. The additional personnel will include doctors, nurses and other health care workers.
New York state has more than 113,700 cases and 3,565 deaths. Officials report more than 63,300 cases in New York City, with 2,624 deaths. More than 11,730 people are hospitalized across the five boroughs.
Trump said there has “never been anything like” what New York is experiencing, and more medical personnel could be sent in the future.
“We will move heaven and earth to safeguard our great American citizens,” the president said. “We will continue to use every power to keep our people healthy and secure.”
But in the course of a wide-ranging press conference, in which Trump also spoke at length about his impeachment in response to a question about the firing of the intelligence community inspector general, the president said he is weighing whether to establish a second COVID-19 task force that would look into restarting the economy.
“We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months,” Trump said. “This country wasn’t meant for this. We have to open the country again.”
Photos: The Global Coronavirus Outbreak
Unlike his previous remarks, in which he expressed a hope that the country could begin to resume operations in some places around Easter, Trump on Saturday said he cannot set a definite date. He thinks it will be “sooner rather than later,” highlighting that people are continuing good social distancing practices.
“We’re going to be back to good health soon in my opinion. We’re making good progress,” he said, recounting a call he had with the commissioners of the major American sports leagues and indicating he hoped to have fans back in the stands by fall.
Nevertheless, the comments about reopening the country came along with a sober assessment of what’s ahead in the nearer future.
“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately,” Trump said.
Task force officials indicated they expect to see the virus peak in big cities like New York, Detroit and New Orleans in the next week. So far, 8,300 people have died of the virus in the United States.
Trump said he’s spoken with dozens of governors, gauging which states need which supplies the most. Federal officials are requesting that hospitals report nightly their supplies and ventilator usage so the government can determine “hot spots.” The president said he has spoken with a number of hospital administrations and they are “thrilled” that their supply needs are being met.
The administration is working hard to get New York the supplies it needs, including the ventilators that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been asking for, Trump said, but the federal government has to take care of the entire country, “not just one area.” Vice President Mike Pence said New York has received 4,400 ventilators from the federal government.
In addition to an increase in medical supplies, the government is asking states not hit hard by the pandemic to send spare ventilators to the federal stockpile so they can be sent out to areas in need.
Approximately 180 million N95 masks will be distributed across the country, Trump said, adding that he is using the Defense Production Act “very powerfully” to increase production of the necessary medical equipment. He said he is using it “directly and … the threat of it.”
“You could call it retaliation,” Trump added. “We’re being tough and it works very well.”