Trump touts 'tremendous response' to coronavirus amid rising toll

New York (tca/dpa) - President Donald Trump touted the "tremendous response" to the coronavirus crisis Saturday even as the national death toll continued to increase and reports claimed he ignored early intelligence warnings about the pandemic.

"We've had a tremendous response in the federal government," he said. "We're working very hard."

American intelligence reportedly warned the president in January and February that the pandemic would spread to the U.S., the Washington Post reported, but Trump repeatedly downplayed the danger.
Trump said lawmakers were close to enacting a massive bipartisan coronavirus economic stimulus package. He praised both Republicans and Democrats and lauded a spirit of "solidarity" in the crisis-hit nation.
He announced new measures including suspending federal student loan payments, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and skipping standardized testing for students sent home from schools.
"You just heard the president described one inspiring story after allow the way the American people are responding, the way American businesses are responding, religious communities across this country," Vice President Mike Pence said. "The American people are coming together.
Pence said he and his wife would be tested for coronavirus after a staffer in his office tested positive. He said he had no symptoms and no contact with the staffer.
He mentioned a coronavirus survivor at the nursing home in Kirkland, Washigton, outside Seattle, where the first deaths from the outbreak was reported.
Nearly 200,000 Americans have completed testing for coronavirus, officials said while displaying a graphic showing a dramatic increase in recent days.
Trump reiterated the emergency declaration he issued for New York state Friday night and said he was considering a similar edict for California.
At least 266 Americans have died from the virus and about 20,000 have been infected - about half of those in New York state.
Trump has spent much of the past three days touting the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine.
He claimed Thursday that it had already been approved for use to fight coronavirus - though the U.S Food & Drug Administration denied that Thursday - and said he had a "hunch" it could be a "game changer."
Trump suggested the anti-malarial drug and another drug called azithromycin should be used by those suffering from coronavirus.
"Hopefully they will ... be put into use immediately," he wrote on Twitter. " PEOPLE ARE DYING."
Medical experts cautioned that the jury is very much still out on whether the drugs are effective for coronavirus and whether they are safe for use in the way Trump suggests.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the nation Friday that there was no scientific basis for Trump's claims.
"There is hope there (but) we should listen to the doctors and scientists," Dr. James Phillips said on CNN.
In Africa, where hydroxychloroquine can be obtained over the counter, people have reportedly rushed to drug stores to seek scarce supplies and Nigerian officials say some have been sickened after taking improper large doses.
Experts also caution that the government should not send out mixed messages about the crisis because it can cause people to not respond appropriately to actual health advice such as orders to isolate from others.
Trump on Saturday referred again to coronavirus as the "Chinese virus," which hate speech watchdogs say is contributing to increases in bias against Asian Americans.

Sunday, March 22nd 2020
By Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News

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