Trump Relays New Coronavirus Response Measures At White House

Mar 16, 2020
Originally published on March 16, 2020 7:54 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump has announced new guidelines for all Americans to follow over the next two weeks to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just say this. We have an invisible enemy. We have a problem that, a month ago, nobody ever thought about.

KELLY: The president outlined new recommendations on travel and dining out - or not. And he said schools are advised to close. Joining us now to discuss this stepped-up response to the coronavirus is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Hey there, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: Some more detail, please, on what exactly the president is suggesting.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. The president announced new guidelines for all Americans to follow over the next two weeks to, essentially, reduce the spread of coronavirus. He wants people to avoid groups of more than 10. He wants them to stop discretionary travel, nonessential travel. He does not want people to be eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts. This is what else he said.

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TRUMP: And I've spoken, actually, with my son. He says, how bad is this? It's bad. It's bad, but we're going to be, hopefully, a best case not a worst case.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, it really was a different tone for the president, a much more serious tone. And he also revised some of the predictions that he has had in the past about when this would be over, when we'd get over the hump. Before, he would say April, but now he's saying that this could actually last through July or perhaps even August.

KELLY: Worth noting - this is not just the president speaking. He was - made these recommendations from the White House flanked by his top scientific advisers, right?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. What's interesting is that the president - not only is he changing his tone, but also, the president often - you know, he takes the lead. But what we're seeing is that he is deferring to his experts more than he has in the past, and he's deferring to folks like Dr. Deborah Birx, who is a member of the coronavirus task force. She, interestingly, specifically called on the millennials, which she described as the core group who are going to be the people who stop this virus. She said that's because they intuitively know how to communicate without meeting in person. And she also said that they're also the group that is going to - are the group that's going out in restaurants and gathering, which is more than 10 people. And she said specifically that she wants and they need for people to be separated at this time.

We also heard a lot from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who we've heard from a lot, of course. He's of the NIH. He stressed that some of the White House guidelines are inconvenient for people, but he said they would help stop the spread of the virus. And he really urged Americans to follow these guidelines because otherwise, he said, they would fail. And at one point, he stressed that - he said he's said this over and over and over again - that when you're dealing with an emerging infectious disease outbreak, you're always behind where you think you are, so you really need to take steps ahead of it that you don't think you need.

KELLY: Do we know, Franco, if this is all that is coming forward in these next few days in terms of recommendations? Asking because there has been talk of some kind of national curfew, of domestic travel restrictions and so on - did they get into any of that today?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, there were a lot of questions about that. President Trump, at this time, says he is not considering a national curfew or a national quarantine, but he is leaving open the possibility of taking stronger steps for some of the more particularly hard-hit areas. Trump said the government was also discussing taking over some unused buildings that could be used to address kind of, like, needed hospital capacity. But he said he was still hoping that he would not be able to use them. You know, he's - he also had a discussion earlier today with the governors of the 50 states about getting their help. And what he said he needs from them is for them to go out and go to their supply chains and seek respirators, which he said could potentially be - they could potentially get it faster than the federal government could.

KELLY: Just very quickly, did he speak to the markets? The Dow had a horrendous day today.

ORDOÑEZ: Yes, he did. He did say - he said that we may be heading for a recession, but he said that's not necessarily the case. But he said the best thing that they can do for the stock market is to get through this crisis.

KELLY: OK. That is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.

Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.