As death toll climbs, federal health officials see 'encouraging signs' of slowing number of COVID-19 cases
Acknowledging the mounting death toll, President Donald Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Friday that improvements in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan and other coronavirus hot spots indicate that the nation's response to the pandemic is working to slow COVID-19's spread.
"In the midst of grief and pain, we're seeing clear signs that our aggressive strategy is saving countless lives," Trump said. "Tremendous progress is being made, although when you look at some of the numbers … the numbers of deaths, people that have died, it's so horrible."
More than 18,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 as of Friday, including more than 7,800 in New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted during his Friday press briefing that the number of patients currently in intensive care unit beds in the state declined for the first time since the outbreak began, yet another positive sign that New York might have reached the worst part of the crisis at a much lower level than had been predicted. Daily hospital admissions and intubations remain far lower than the numbers seen about a week ago, as well, even as the death toll continues to surge.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also announced Thursday that the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds declined for the first time day over day.
Trump said "the situation in Detroit and New Orleans appear to be stabilizing."
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said health officials are starting to see the number of coronavirus cases level.
"What also has been encouraging for those of you who have been watching epidemic curves every day … you can see for the first time that in the United States we're starting to level on the logarithmic phase like Italy did about a week ago," she said.
Birx said many metro areas are showing drops in the number of daily cases.
"What we're seeing is that we're uniting in social distancing, and that's been encouraging to all of us and should be encouraging to health care providers that are on the front lines," Birx added.
Trump and the nation's top health experts urged Americans to continue to abide by stay home orders and social distancing requirements because they're having a big impact.
Trump, Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commended governors and health officials across the country for working around the clock to help slow the spread of the disease.
"They're doing an extraordinary job," Fauci said.
Trump also announced that $16 billion is being made available to farmers and ranchers who are suffering the economic impact of the pandemic.
Trump said he directed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to expedite help to farmers, particularly small farmers, to do what needs to be done to make sure the food supply chain remains active and open.
"We're going to help out our farmers," he said.
The president said Ford, General Motors and other private manufacturers are still building thousands of ventilators even though there might not be a need. Excess ventilators will be placed in the U.S. stockpile or shipped to other countries that will need them.
"Every American should be proud of what our country has been able to achieve in just a short period of time," Trump said. "We're in great shape on ventilators, we're in great shape for personal protection" equipment.
Vice President Mike Pence also was optimistic.
"On this Good Friday we remember those who lost their lives to the novel coronavirus," Pence said. ... "Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday, and there is hope."