President Donald Trump on Sunday officially abandoned his hope of reopening the U.S. economy by Easter, saying he would keep federal guidelines on social distancing in place through the end of April.
“The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,” Trump said at a Rose Garden press conference on Sunday evening. “We can expect that by June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery, we think by June 1. A lot of great things will be happening.”
Trump also left open the possibility that the guidelines could be extended further. “We hope not, but we think it’s going to, we have aspirational thoughts. We would have loved for it to have been sooner, but you have to do it right.”
“We could’ve done it on Easter,” Trump added, but “we just felt it was too soon. We can’t take a chance.”
The president spent a large portion of the press conference touting the progress that his administration and the country are making in addressing the spread of the novel coronavirus, including the development of tests and treatments, and a ramping up of medical device production.
The development of a new, ultra-fast coronavirus test this week, Trump said, is “a whole new ballgame” and will accelerate efforts to “monitor, track, contain, and ultimately defeat the virus.”
Even as he touted progress in the development of crucial medical supplies and personal protective equipment, Trump accused hospitals and states of hoarding ventilators and otherwise misappropriating resources, preventing a more effective response.
“Many of the states are stocked up,” Trump said of ventilators in particular. “Some of them don’t admit it, but we have sent so much, so many things to them, including ventilators. There’s a question as to hoarding of ventilators. Some hospitals and independent hospitals and some hospital chains, as we call them, they are holding ventilators, they don’t want to let them up. We need them for certain areas where there’s a big problem. You can’t hold them if you think there might be a problem down the road.”
The president has previously suggested that states such as New York are inflating the number of ventilators that they say their medical facilities need.
Speaking from the Rose Garden on Sunday, Trump also suggested that something nefarious could be behind the skyrocketing demand for medical masks at American hospitals.
He cited data showing that one New York hospital that traditionally used between 10,000 and 20,000 masks per day now needs between 200,000 and 300,000. “Where are the masks going? Do they go out the back door?” he asked. “You ought to look into it as reporters....I just don’t see, from a practical standpoint, how it’s going from that to that. Someone should look into that.”
Trump said he wanted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to investigate the situation. “I don’t think it’s hoarding,” he said. “I think it’s maybe something worse than hoarding.”
The odd comment came shortly after Trump finished touting the progress his administration is making in getting personal protective equipment to medical professionals on the front line of the pandemic. In particular, Trump cited efforts to ease demand for medical masks through sterilization technology that could allow a single mask to be used up to 20 times.
“We’re delivering millions, but I kept saying why aren’t they able to use that mask a second, third, fourth time,” Trump said. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Trump said, recommended a company developing those sterilization methods. “They’re able to sterilize the mask up to 20 times, so that’s I guess like getting 20 masks.”