The fresh sign of Trump’s unwillingness to accept the full, sobering reality of the outbreak came as an anxious America knuckles down to its new self-isolating reality. The country is bracing for the full fury of the virus that is already escalating sharply and is set to subject the foundations of basic life — the nation’s health care, economic and political systems — to a fateful test.
Amid calls for a stronger federal response, Trump urged the nation’s governors late Monday morning to try to secure additional medical equipment on their own without waiting for the federal government to intervene, though he did say they would try to help.
“We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves,” Trump said on the call, a person familiar with the call told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. He was discussing what health experts say is a serious need for more respirators and ventilators to deal with the influx of coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile, the number of US infections raced up to at least 3,900, including 70 deaths, up more than 500 cases in a day and up from a caseload of 457 a week ago, showing how the crisis, which may not reach its peak for weeks, is accelerating.
“If we go about our daily lives and not worry about everything,” the death toll could be high, Fauci said. “People sometimes think that I’m overreacting. I like it when people are thinking I’m overreacting because that means we’re doing it just right.” Fauci also said he had not ruled out calling for a national lockdown in order to stem the spread of the virus.
“It’s a very contagious virus, it’s incredible, but it’s something we have tremendous control of,” the President said.
Trump’s upbeat predictions about the coronavirus crisis did not just contrast with Fauci’s warnings, they also clashed with the conditions being experienced by local officials.
“We have been behind on this disease since day one,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, told Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.”
“I believe on any projection that that flattening of the curve is not going to be enough. I don’t see it as a curve. I see it as a wave. And the wave is going to crash on to our hospital system.”
“This is like a war, and in a war you do whatever is needed to be done to take care of your people,” Biden said.
Sanders was scathing about Trump’s handling of the crisis.
“First thing we have got to do, whether or not I’m president, is to shut this President up right now, because he’s undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people,” Sanders said. “It is unacceptable for him to be blabbering with un-factual information, which is confusing the general public.”
Progress on testing logjam
Vice President Mike Pence announced Sunday that as of this week, more than 2,000 labs would come online nationwide with high-speed testing facilities.
He said that the new system would allow all Americans who need to be tested to go to a community site outside their normal health networks for testing. Officials asked that those at highest risk, the elderly and patients with pre-existing conditions be given priority.
Top officials were still unable to give full figures Sunday on how many Americans have now been tested after the disastrously slow roll out of diagnosis kits. The lack of clarity is seriously hampering efforts to keep pace with the disease.
“We have got a lot of people walking around in Ohio who are positive who’ve not been tested. Some don’t know it. Some may never know it,” the Republican governor said.
Despite his calls for national unity, Trump exploded at the media on Sunday after it emerged that his announcement that Google would quickly open a national virus testing website was at best premature and at worst highly misleading.
“The Fake and Corrupt News never called Google. They said this was not true. Even in times such as these, they are not truthful. Watch for their apology, it won’t happen. More importantly, thank you to Google!” Trump tweeted.
And the White House is likely to ask Congress this week for another round of funding specifically for the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Veterans Affairs, two White House officials told CNN. Administration officials have discussed relying on the VA to supplement the broader health care system by taking care of civilians in the event the coronavirus crisis worsens.
New problems emerged with the federal authorities’ response to the crisis over the weekend, which caused fresh tension with local political leaders.
Meanwhile, the massive lines at airports — with passengers returning from abroad huddled in unhealthy crowds for virus screening — suggest the government was unprepared for Trump’s sudden orders.
“I want to make known my strong concerns and disappointments with the federal government’s lack of preparedness in issuing new directives regarding airport screening,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
“They should have increased the Customs and Border Patrol numbers. And they should have increased the number of CDC personnel on the ground doing those checks. They did neither of those,” the Democratic governor said.
Trump asks Americans not to besiege supermarkets
Hospitals and medical staff are awaiting a spike in patients unsure whether they have sufficient breathing machines and intensive care beds for a rush of gravely ill patients.
Fauci said that in the worst case scenario he wants to prevent there may not be sufficient ventilators available for patients who need them.
“That’s when you’re going to have to make some very tough decisions,” he told CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
Fauci’s sobering comments came as the fabric of everyday American life ebbed in the biggest economic and societal shutdown of the modern age.
DeWine suggested schools in his state could be out for the rest of the academic year. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order outlawing price gouging of items like cleansing and disinfecting supplies that are in high demand.
City authorities in Washington, D.C., introduced new restrictions meant to cut down on the numbers of people in bars and restaurants after large crowds were out celebrating St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend.
The group is particularly concerned about countries restricting chemicals, ingredients and products they manufacture from getting to the US.
Trump held a call with grocery, food and beverage corporate leaders on Sunday about supply chain concerns.
He urged Americans to stop besieging stores after a weekend in which basic staples like pasta, meat, toilet paper rolls and cleaning products vanished from supermarket shelves.
This story has been updated to include additional reporting.
CNN’s Sarah Westwood and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.