President Donald Trump punched back on Tuesday against criticism from Democratic governors critical of his administration's coronavirus response, wading into his familiar political spats as the White House looks to combat a pandemic.
Trump referred to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the "failing Michigan governor" on Monday and lashed out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo after his calls for stepped up federal assistance. Minutes later, he heaped praise on his own administration for "working very well with the Governors and State officials."
While Cuomo, Whitmer and other governors have been among the most vocal critics of the federal coronavirus response, they have been far from alone. The Trump administration has come under a steady drumbeat of scrutiny over its inability to quickly ramp up coronavirus testing capabilities as well as its weekslong rhetorical campaign to downplay the virus' threat to Americans. Only recently has the president reversed course in his own public utterances to warn the public about the severity of the pandemic's threat.
Although Trump and Cuomo sparred Tuesday on social media, it appeared the two made amends after a morning phone call. Not long after Cuomo praised the Trump administration for being "responsive" at a press conference on Tuesday, Trump told reporters at the White House press briefing that they were both "doing a really good job."
"We had a very good talk," Trump said. "I think we are right there on the same track. It's going to be very successful."
Watch coronavirus livestream coverage of the outbreak as COVID-19 spreads, impacting markets and daily life across the U.S. and abroad.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he won’t approve a “shelter-in-place” order for New York City, a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents to prepare for one.
“That is not going to happen, shelter in place, for New York City,” Cuomo said on The Daily podcast by The New York Times. “For any city or county to take an emergency action, the state has to approve it. And I wouldn’t approve shelter in place.”
Cuomo said that such drastic policies would create more fear amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which has now infected more than 6,500 people across the U.S. and killed at least 115, according to Johns Hopkins University. With 1,717 confirmed infections, New York state has more cases than any other state in the country. However, Cuomo has said the true number is likely much higher due to limited testing capacity and stringent federal guidelines over who’s eligible for diagnostic testing.
“Quarantine in place, you can’t leave your home,” Cuomo said. “The fear, the panic is a bigger problem than the virus.”
Watch live coverage as New York City Mayor de Blasio gives an update on the city’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will waive mortgage payments for the next 90 days, based on financial hardship, due to the impacts of the coronavirus.
"If you are not working, if you are working only part-time, we're going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days," he said at a news conference Thursday. "That will be a real-life economic benefit. It will also be a stress reliever for many families."
The governor also said that he is ordering that fees be waived for overdrafts, ATMs, and credit cards.
On Wednesday, Cuomo issued a mandatory in-office workforce cap, saying that only 50 percent of workers could be present. He further expanded that Thursday, now saying that only 25 percent of workers could be in the office. The order does not include essential services such as food services, pharmacies, and shipping.
Watch live coverage as New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy gives a coronavirus briefing.
On Wednesday, Trump met with a group of nurses at the White House, telling them that the administration had arranged for a major new supply of the type of respirator in high demand during the pandemic.
"We've ordered 500 million N95 masks to drive private production," Trump said. He also said that construction companies were being asked to donate unused masks. The next day at a briefing, Vice President Pence stated: "We've vastly increased the supply of medical masks."
But hospitals continue to report that they are running short of masks, as are pharmacists. Authorities are taking donations from unlikely sources, including financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs.
Loose-fitting surgical masks aren't appropriate for dealing with the pandemic authorities say; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a graphic detailing the important differences between a surgical mask and an N95 respirator.
Trump acknowledged the shortfall in supplies on Friday when he said he had invoked the Cold War-era Defense Production Act, which permits him to direct production of essential items.
"We are using it," Trump said, "for certain things that we need," citing ventilators and masks.
It still isn't clear how much equipment is needed to respond to current and future patients in the pandemic beyond what's in hand today and when or whether the demand will be met.
One of the most frequent exaggerations coming from the administration is the availability of coronavirus tests.
When he visited the CDC in Atlanta earlier this month, Trump claimed that "They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test."
Pence made a similar claim last week, saying that "a million tests are in the field" and that "by the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed."
Even so, anecdotal reports abound about Americans who feel sick struggling to be able to confirm a diagnosis with an actual test. Fauci acknowledged that there clearly is a gap between the supply and the demand.
"I get the same calls that many of you get ... for one reason or another they can't get [tests]," Fauci said on Friday. "That is a reality that is happening now. Is it the same as it was a few weeks ago? Absolutely not."
The anecdotal nature of the accounts means it's difficult to assess what the spread might be between the testing capacity available now, or set to come onstream soon, and the pool of people who satisfy the administration's guidelines to request one.
Trump and Pence say they don't want every American — particularly those who are feeling well — to be tested. It still isn't clear, however, how big the gap remains between requests for tests considered valid under Trump's and Pence's conditions — and the capacity to support them.
US President Donald Trump has said he is considering imposing a quarantine on New York state in a bid to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
"We'd like to see [it] quarantined because it's a hotspot," he told reporters. "I'm thinking about that."
He spoke as confirmed cases in the state increased to more than 52,000, about half of the total in the US.
But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the idea was "preposterous", "anti-American" and a "declaration of war".
Mr Cuomo said the state had already implemented "quarantine" measures, such as banning major gatherings and ordering people to remain at home, but that he would oppose any "lockdown" efforts.
"If you said we were geographically restricted from leaving, that would be a lockdown," Mr Cuomo told CNN on Saturday.
"Then we would be Wuhan, China, and that wouldn't make any sense," he said, adding that this would cause the stock market to crash in a way that would make it impossible for the US economy to "recover for months, if not years".
"You would paralyse the financial sector," he said.