The Latest COVID-19 Updates (March 23)

8 p.m. -- WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Monday that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months, and he claimed that continued closures could result in more deaths than the coronavirus pandemic. "We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump told reporters at a press briefing, echoing a midnight Sunday tweet. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems." Trump acknowledged there were trade-offs, “there's no question about that," but claimed that, if closures stretch on for months, there would be “probably more death from that than anything that we're talking about with respect to the virus.”

6:30 p.m. -- ROME — The man known in Italy as Patient No. 1 in the country’s devastating outbreak of the coronavirus is out of the hospital a month after he arrived in critically ill condition. Authorities in Italy's hardest hit region of Lombardy played an audio message recorded by the 38-year-old man in which he says, “You can get cured of this illness.” The man identified only by his first name of Mattia spent 18 days in intensive care on a respirator. After that time, he says he began to do on his own “the most simple and beautiful thing: that is, to breathe.” The man is awaiting the birth of a child within days. Last week, Italian media reported the death of his father, who lived in one of the first towns in Lombardy that were at the heart of the outbreak’s start. Italian doctors say that even before Mattia's case, they suspect the virus was circulating in Italy and that some patients who died of pneumonia last fall might have had coronavirus.

4:30 p.m. —  Butler County Community College was notified today by a student that the student who attends BC3’s main campus in Butler Township has tested positive for COVID-19. The student was last on BC3’s main campus March 9. The college today alerted students who attended classes with the student and faculty who taught the courses. It also notified other students, faculty and staff. The notifications advised students, faculty and staff to contact a heathcare provider should they experience symptoms of COVID-19, and provided information about a community healthcare center that serves adults who do not have health insurance. In respecting the privacy rights of its student, faculty and staff, BC3 cannot release further details that may identify the student. BC3 today began remote instruction for all credit and noncredit courses in a format that will continue through the rest of the spring 2020 semester.

4 p.m. NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are ending another bumpy day broadly lower on Wall Street as investors wait to see if Democrats and Republicans can settle their differences on an economic rescue package. Major indexes ended down about 3 percent Monday, having been down as much as 5 percent. Earlier, markets got a bump following the latest announcement of support from the Federal Reserve. The Fed said it would buy as much government debt as needed to help markets operate smoothly and lend money to businesses and local governments, but the gains quickly vanished. Markets are likely to remain volatile as long as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates.

3:30 p.m. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has issued new orders related to the coronavirus outbreak, one of which was a two-week extension of the ongoing school closures.
“Protecting the health and safety of students, families, teachers and all employees who work in our schools is paramount during this national health crisis and we must continue our efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera said. “The number of positive cases increases daily and we’re seeing it spread to more counties. We must adhere to the social distancing guidelines. Extending the closure will help every community in its efforts to mitigate the spread.”
To assist schools during the extended closure, Secretary Rivera said the state’s 29 intermediate units are ready to provide technical assistance to help develop continuity of education plans for all students.
“We know students are eager to engage with their teachers and return to learning,” he said. “Beginning tomorrow, all schools will be able to work with their local intermediate unit to develop instructional plans for all students, including those with disabilities and English language learners.”
Also today, Secretary Rivera cancelled standardized testing for students in career and technical education (CTE) programs for the 2019-20 school year. These include exams from the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) and National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS).
Last Thursday the department cancelled all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year, as well as the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). The U.S. Department of Education approved Pennsylvania’s waiver request the following day, and further waived accountability and reporting requirements for the 2019-20 school year.
The department has been providing ongoing guidance to school communities in the form of FAQs. The guidance information is available at education.pa.gov/COVID19.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Wolf also issued the state's first stay-at-home/shelter-in-place order for six counties: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe and Montgomery. The order will take effect at 8 p.m. tonight. Those in the affected counties must stay in their homes unless not leaving would endanger a life. The administration will be releasing a full list of allowable activities, but they include shopping for groceries, medication or gasoline.
"This is not a request I make lightly," he said. "Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American freedom. Our economy and our way of life are built on this freedom, and it is this freedom I seek to preserve in our fight against COVID-19."
Asked why the order was not enacted across the entire state, Wolf said the administration is trying not to overreact, as there remain a number of counties with no confirmed cases. He said there have been discussions about expanding it to the entire state, but hopes the current measures will be enough to contain COVID-19 to the areas where it has already been identified.
During the same briefing, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine gave updated statistics on the virus in Pennsylvania. As of 12 a.m. March 23, there were 165 new cases, up from the previous day's increase of 108. That made for a statewide total of 644. Approximately 60 people required hospitalization, about 10 percent of those who tested positive. There have been six deaths: one each in Allegheny, Lackawanna, Monroe and Montgomery counties and two in Northampton County. All were adults.
Levine also provided some statistics on hospital preparation. There are 3,400 licensed ICU beds, 40 percent of which are available, and 2,000 ventilators. At the moment, Pennsylvania hospitals are not being overwhelmed, as has happened elsewhere.
Wolf and Levine also addressed the following items:
• Levine said that as study of COVID-19 has advanced, they have identified diarrhea as a new potential symptom. Previously known symptoms were cough, fever and shortness of breath. "This underscores the need for people to stay home, especially if you are sick," she said, adding that even the life-sustaining businesses whose doors are still open should send sick employees home, even if their symptoms are minor.
• Enforcement of Wolf's order to close nonessential businesses began at 8 a.m. Monday. Wolf said the administration has not talked about establishing a system for the number of warnings a business can receive before a fine will be enacted, as the state police have informed him that Pennsylvanians are overwhelmingly complying with the order. He was not aware of any specific reports of a business refusing to comply.
• Waivers for businesses that believe they were incorrectly labeled as nonessential: Wolf said the state has already received thousands, and estimated that about 2,000 had been granted, in addition to a number that turned out not to need waivers, as they were covered in the initial order.
• Postponing primaries: Wolf said there is still no agreement, but he is supportive of efforts to push the date back.
• Social media campaigns: Levine was asked about emerging social media campaigns to donate old masks or make new ones for hospitals to address shortages. She praised the compassion of Pennsylvanians, but said that unfortunately, hospitals are in need of a specific kind of mask — called N95 masks — that are specifically designed to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. She said the state and its hospitals all have stores and are receiving some of the stockpiles in the national store. The administration is looking at other ways of getting more of them as well.
• Drugs referenced by Donald Trump: Levine was asked about drugs the president had referenced as treatments for COVID-19. She said many potential treatments are undergoing clinical trials sponsored by the National Institute of Health, and ICU physicians may try different combinations with seriously ill patients. However, at the moment, there is no approved treatment, only potential options that are being investigated.
• Quarantining the homeless: Asked if there were options available for people with nowhere to quarantine, Levine confirmed that there are quarantine sites, but would not say where they were — only that they exist and will be used as necessary.
• Involving Pennsylvania companies in the response: Levine said that the administration is reaching out to Pennsylvania companies that might be able to assist. It has already purchased new ventilators from one, and hopes others might be able to provide N95 masks.
• Travel: Asked about people who have attempted to flee COVID-19 to second or summer homes, Levine said the state is not considering a travel ban. However, she urged people to remain home if at all possible.

1 p.m. WASHINGTON — According to NBC News, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned Monday that the coronavirus outbreak will worsen this week and said that people across the country are not taking the threat seriously enough.
“I want America to understand this week, it's going to get bad,” Adams said in an interview on the “TODAY” show.
The disease is spreading, NBC quoted him as saying, because many people — especially young people — are not abiding by guidance to stay at home and practice social distancing.

12 p.m. The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed that as of 12 a.m. March 23, there are 165 additional positive cases of COVID-19, and one new death in Montgomery County, bringing the statewide total to 644 in 34 counties. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the DoH website. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.
"Our notable increase in cases over the last few days indicate we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase, and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home."
Statewide, there are 644 cases of COVID-19 reported from commercial, hospital and state labs. There are 6,595 patients who have tested negative, and three total deaths. With commercial labs being the primary testing option for most Pennsylvanians, data is not available on the total number of tests pending.

11:30 a.m. According to CNN, Democratic senator and former U.S. presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has announced that her husband, John, has tested positive for coronavirus. "We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person," CNN quoted her as saying. She said the two of them have not been in the same place for 14 days, and her doctor did not advise her to get a test.

10 a.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — In its boldest effort to protect the U.S. economy from the coronavirus, the Federal Reserve says it will buy as much government debt as it deems necessary and will also begin lending to small and large businesses and local governments to help them weather the crisis.
The Fed's announcement Monday removes any dollar limits from its plans to support the flow of credit through an economy that has been ravaged by the viral outbreak. The central bank's all-out effort has now gone beyond even the extraordinary drive it made to rescue the economy from the 2008 financial crisis.
"The coronavirus pandemic is causing tremendous hardship across the United States and around the world," the Fed said in a statement. “Our nation’s first priority is to care for those afflicted and to limit the further spread of the virus. While great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions. Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate.”
Financial markets sharply reversed themselves after the announcement. Dow Jones futures swung more than 1,000 points from about 500 down to a rise of roughly 500 before falling back again after the market opened. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond also fell, a sign that more investors are willing to purchase the securities.

9:30 a.m. MOSCOW — Hundreds of migrants from Central Asia are stuck in Moscow airports as countries close borders and airlines cancel flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Footage from state TV showed dozens of people lying on the floor at airport terminals, using camping mats to sleep on. Many of them say they’ve been there for several days.
As of Monday, there were 180 Kyrgyz nationals, 202 Uzbek nationals and more than 250 Tajik nationals waiting for flights to their home countries in three Moscow airports.
They all rushed home in panic over the ruble dropping along with oil prices and closing borders.
Several dozen people ended up trapped in the transit zone of the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, having learned that their flights were canceled after they went through passport control.
Russia has reported 438 coronavirus cases and closed the border for foreigners and restricted air traffic with all countries last week.
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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh has ordered a 10-day general holiday through April 4 for all government and private organizations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The country’s Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said all government offices not involved in emergency services have been closed. The Monday announcement came after health authorities confirmed a third death due to COVID-19.
Officials also confirmed another six new cases of the virus, including two children below 10 and a doctor and two nurses.
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The state of Alaska fears it will run out of money to pay doctors, hospitals and clinics who treat Medicaid patients.
The Anchorage Daily News reported effects of the shortfall on health care expected to begin Monday could not be precisely determined. The shortfall is a consequence of last year’s budget cuts and the Legislature's failure this year to approve a $360 million supplemental budget.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Legislature cut nearly $170 million from the Medicaid budget last year. The governor has proposed to reverse cuts, but in the meantime the state’s Medicaid accounts have been depleted.
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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's coronavirus cases jumped to 402 on Monday. That is an increase of 128 cases from the day before as it is the country with the most cases in Africa.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to speak to the nation about the growing threat and many expect him to announce new restrictive measures to try to slow the spread of the disease.
More than half of South Africa's total cases are in the Gauteng province, which include Johannesburg and Pretoria. Johannesburg has 5.7 million people, South Africa has 57 million people.
The new government figures put South Africa ahead of Egypt, which has 372 cases. South Africa has not registered a death from the disease.
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TAIPEI — Taiwan will ban airline passenger transits through the country starting Tuesday through April 7.
Taiwan confirmed 26 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the island to 195.
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WARSAW, Poland — Poland has joined those calling for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Polish Olympic Committee says in a statement there is too much uncertainty at the moment to go ahead. It said that because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases, “Polish athletes have increasingly limited training options, Olympic qualifications are being cancelled and there is too much uncertainty."
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LONDON -- Irish premier Leo Varadkar has warned further restrictions may be made on people's movements during the coronavirus pandemic because of failure to follow social distancing advice.
Varadkar says more recommendations are needed in light of weekend images of crowded public places in Ireland. They will be delivered Tuesday.
The Irish government has said four people have died from the COVID-19 disease and there are currently 906 positive cases of coronavirus.
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CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s Parliament has passed 83.6 billion Australian dollars ($48.4 billion) in economic stimulus measures to dampen the impact of the coronavirus.
A scaled-down Parliament passed the legislation in a single day on Monday. Dozens of lawmakers have been excused from attending to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19.
A fourth lawmaker announced on Monday he had contracted the disease.
Australia has more than 1,700 confirmed cases in a population of 25 million and seven people have died with the respiratory illness.
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HONG KONG — Foreign non-residents of Hong Kong will be barred from entering the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for 14 days beginning Wednesday.
The Asian financial hub will also ban travelers from mainland China, along with the nearby Chinese region of Macao and the self-governing island of Taiwan that is claimed by Beijing, if they have visited foreign countries over the past two weeks.
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BERLIN — The German government has approved another large aid package to help companies and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The aid package breaks six years of balanced budgets by borrowing 156 billion euros ($167 billion) to finance it.
The government announced Monday that it will give small companies and self-employed people aid of up to 15,000 euros each over three months.
The decision was made at a Cabinet meeting that Chancellor Angela Merkel joined by telephone.
Merkel went into home quarantine on Sunday evening after learning that a doctor who administered a vaccination to her had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The new package comes on top of a previous pledge of at least 460 billion euros in loan guarantees to help Europe’s biggest economy handle the fallout from running down public life to a minimum.
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PRAGUE — Czech authorities have established an air bridge with China to acquire medical equipment. The effort was done with help from NATO and Czech and Chinese airlines.
NATO provided a giant transport An-124 Ruslan plane as part of its program to help participating allies transport heavy and outsized cargo.
The first flight from the city of Shenzhen in south-eastern China delivered over 106 metric tons (117 tons) of equipment. Two more NATO backed flights are expected later in March.
Also, two planes by the China Eastern airline arrived on Friday and Sunday while the first plane by Czech airline CSA landed in Prague early Monday.
They all have been loaded with millions of face masks and respirators, protective googles and suits as well testers for the virus much needed by the health sector.
Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said three flights a week will be landing with the supplies for at least six weeks.
The Czech Republic has 1,165 cases of COVID-19, and one death.
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CAIRO — Egypt’s state-run television has reported the death of a senior military officer from the coronavirus.
Major General Safea Abdel-Halim Dawood tested positive to the virus following his participation in sterilization efforts which the military. He was head of major projects at the engineering authority of the Egyptian armed forces.
Dawood was the second highest official infected by the virus to date in Egypt, which has around 330 cases and 16 deaths.
On Sunday, the military announced the death of Major General Khaled Shaltout, who was infected also while taking part in sterilization.
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WARSAW, Poland — The coronavirus pandemic is hitting some of Catholic Poland’s best loved traditions like the blessing of food in churches on Holy Saturday.
Poland’s bishops have advised against holding the tradition this year to avoid drawing the usual crowds to churches. People bring baskets of food to church that are placed together on a large table, the foods get a blessing and a sprinkle of Holy Water from the priest, as do the families gathered around the table.
With a “national quarantine” currently in place in the fight against the spreading virus, the bishops advise against the blessing and against the use of Holy Water in Easter liturgies in April.
Poland has 649 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and seven fatalities.
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The second death from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico is a tourist from the United States.
The Health Department says the victim is a 73-year-old man who was vacationing in the U.S. territory with his wife and had other health problems.
The island has 31 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 69 pending test results. Police have detained and cited more than 200 people for violating a two-week curfew imposed last week.
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MADRID — The number of new infections of the coronavirus in Spain rose for the second day in a row.
Spain's new 4,517 new Monday brought the overall number since the beginning of the outbreak to 33,089. The day-to-day increase of around 15% is similar to the one seen the day before.
The exponential growth of infection was lower than in previous days, but the number of deaths jumped by 462. Spain now has 2,182 fatalities.
The Spanish government says deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo has been hospitalized with a respiratory infection and doctors are testing her for the coronavirus.
Spaniards are beginning their second week of confinement as worry spreads for the collapse of the country’s healthcare system amid an influx of COVID-19 patients requiring assisted respiration.
The Spanish government is seeking parliament approval to extend the state emergency for two more weeks until April 11, but harsher measures like halting overall industrial production have been ruled out.
No incoming travellers from outside Europe’s Schengen border area are allowed into the country starting from Monday.
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LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said people ignoring the government's social distancing advice are “very selfish."
Hancock warned on BBC radio the government may have to take “more action” if people continue to ignore the government's advice to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
His comments came after a series of images over the weekend showing crowds congregating in open spaces.
Snowdonia National Park in Wales, which experienced “its busiest ever visitor day” on Saturday, urged the government to be more explicit in its advice.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to hold his daily news conference Monday and has warned that Britain may soon have to endure an Italy-style lockdown if people continue to disregard the advice.
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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh now has three deaths from the coronavirus. The number of confirmed infections is 33.
Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said that six new infections were reported Monday. The new infections include two children under 10 years, a doctor and two nurses.
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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian lawmakers will discuss a government proposal to extend the state of emergency declared on March 11 because of the coronavirus epidemic.
The bill would allow Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government to rule by decree. The government would not need parliament to approve new or amended laws as long as it considers it necessary because of the epidemic.
The government also has asked the opposition to agree to the urgent passage of the legislation, which would require support from four-fifths of lawmakers. Orban's Fidesz party and a small ally control two-thirds of the seats.
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LISBON, Portugal -- A community of nuns living in silence at a Portuguese convent have offered tips on how to make the best of being stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The nuns living in central Portugal say people should take the opportunity to develop their creative side and eat meals together as a family.
They say in an article for the Roman Catholic news agency in Portugal, Ecclesia, that people should place value on the simple things in life -- a friendly word, a tender gesture, taking time to listen to others.
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TOKYO — Japan's health ministry said Monday that two former passengers of a cruise ship died, becoming the ninth and 10th fatalities from the Diamond Princess.
The two men had tested positive for the virus while on board and were treated at hospitals. The ministry didn't disclose the direct cause of their deaths.
Japan now has 1,801 confirmed cases, including 712 from the ship. The death toll now totals 51, including 10 from the ship.
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KRAKOW, Poland — One of Poland’s biggest hospitals, the University Hospital in Krakow, has closed almost all wards to new patients after a few of its employees tested positive for coronavirus.
Only the contagious diseases ward, dedicated to treating COVID-19, remains open. All patients in the hospital will be tested for coronavirus during the week, or some seven days after they had contact with the infected medics. Experts say that to be effective, the tests need to be taken about a week after potential exposure to the virus.
The hospital provides educational and practical base to medicine students of the Jagiellonian University. All schools and universities in Poland were closed earlier this month in an effort to fight the spreading virus.
A nation of 38 million, Poland has confirmed 649 cases of coronavirus infection. Seven patients have died.
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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has canceled his planned day trip to Malta on May 31 due to the coronavirus.
The Vatican on Monday made official what was widely expected, given Italy’s nationwide lockdown to try to contain the virus and Malta’s decision to bar air traffic from Italy. Italy is the epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe, registering nearly 60,000 infections and more than 5,400 deaths.
The May 31 trip had been Francis’ only confirmed foreign trip of 2020. The Vatican said it would be rescheduled.
He had hoped to travel to Iraq this year, but those hopes were dashed after the security situation deteriorated following a U.S. airstrike that killed an Iranian general. Francis was also rumored to be planning a trip to Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. But local church officials in East Timor said that trip too, was off.
Despite the virus, Francis is continuing to meet daily with his top advisers.
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PARIS — Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga are the latest luxury fashion labels ramping up supplies of surgical masks to help the fight against COVID-19.
The Kering Group, which owns the labels, says French workshops that usually make luxury clothes for Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga will switch over to manufacturing masks. It says production will begin “as soon as the manufacturing process and materials have been approved by the relevant authorities.” It did not say how many masks the workshops will be able to make.
Kering said it will also buy and import 3 million surgical masks from China for donation to the French health service.
The world’s largest luxury group — Paris-based LVMH — has also said it has reached a deal with a Chinese industrial supplier to deliver 10 million masks to the French population.

9 a.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Trump administration officials and congressional leaders struggled Monday to finalize a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package as the coronavirus crisis deepened, even as President Donald Trump seemed to suggest he had qualms about extending the current 15-day suggested shutdown.
“I didn't expect to be starting off my week with such a dire message for America,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “CBS This Morning," as he warned the numbers will grow get worse this week. “Things are going to get worse before they get better. We really need everyone to understand this...and lean into what they can do to flatten the curve.”
Only hours before the surgeon general's dire warning, Trump suggested in a tweet that the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak in a tweet that contradicted the advice of medical experts across the nation.
“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he wrote, adding: “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

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