The U.S. tally for new confirmed cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continued its march toward 5 million, with the death toll topping 155,000, as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned that the pandemic has entered a “new phase.”
Birx’s warning came after President Donald Trump continued to push his belief that the increase in cases was only a result of increased testing. He tweeted over the weekend that Dr. Anthony Fauci, his administration’s top infectious disease expert, was “Wrong!” for suggesting the U.S. failed to properly respond to the outbreak, while other countries did.
New COVID-19 cases reached 4.69 million in the U.S., with the death toll rising to 155,124, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University . Nearly 1.5 million people have recovered. New daily cases have increased in the past week in 13 states, the data show , and 13 states have seen more than a double-digit percentage of tests turn out positive for COVID-19.
The stock market continued to look past the new case and death tolls, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.36% rising solidly and the technology-friendly Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -0.98% rallying to fresh records. See Market Snapshot.
In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Birx said that COVID-19 is now “different” from what was seen in March and April, as it is now “extraordinarily widespread,” into both rural and urban areas. She urged all Americans to keep wearing masks, social distancing and take personal hygiene measures.
Her dire outlook came hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on ABC’s “This Week,” said as a Trump appointee she had no confidence in Birx, who Pelosi believed should be doing more to refute the misinformation Trump was spreading about the pandemic.
On Friday, Fauci said the reason the U.S. continued to see the pandemic spread rapidly in the U.S. was because when the U.S. started shutting down in response the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. only “functionally” shut down about 50% of the country, while countries in Europe had shut about 95%+ of their countries.
And earlier last week, Johns Hopkins University said the U.S. needed to reset its response to COVID-19, as hospitalization rates matched or exceeded the numbers seen at the peak in the first U.S. hot spot in New York City in March and April. “It’s time to reset,” a report from the university’s Center for Health Security said.
Trump’s response on Saturday was emphatic:
Meanwhile, the White House, Senate Republicans and House Democrats have reportedly made progress on a new coronavirus relief bill, but have yet to reach an agreement on restoring the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit although that benefit expired on Friday.
Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, was asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday whether the U.S. can improve its testing strategy, tried to put it “in context” by saying testing was being used “selectively.”
“Obviously, we want to increase testing, and we’ve done that,” Giroir said.
He emphasized that what was “incredibly important” to controlling the coronavirus was to wear masks, but that 85% to 90% of people had to wear masks and avoid crowds. When asked whether that means the U.S. should implement a national mask mandate, Giroir said it “really has to be voluntary by the American people,” whether it’s mandated by cities or states.
Regarding Trump’s continued touting of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, despite trials showing it didn’t provide a benefit, Giroir said: “Right now, hydroxychloroquine, I can’t recommend that.”