The Trump administration said Sunday that it was “beginning to see the glimmers of progress” in the fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the United States and across the globe.
“We are beginning to see the glimmers of progress,” Vice President Mike Pence said during a hastily called briefing of the White House coronavirus task force, adding, “The experts will tell me not to jump to any conclusions, and I’m not.”
Pence said that he had spoken to governors from states across the country and that data was starting to indicate that the rise in the number of new cases of COVID-19 was starting to slow. “If that holds, if that’s happening it’s because what all of you are doing,” Pence said, referring to Americans’ compliance with social-distancing guidelines.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a leading expert in infectious disease on the task force, said that there were encouraging signs in Spain and Italy, two countries hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“As you can see from the hopeful signs in Italy and Spain — where we see, finally, new cases and deaths declining — it’s giving us hope of what our future could be,” Birx said.
As of Sunday evening, 131,646 cases of COVID-19 and 12,641 deaths from the virus had been reported in Spain. In Italy, 128,948 cases and 15,887 deaths have been reported.
The United States had reported 335,524 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday night, by far the most in the world, with just under 10,000 deaths due to the virus.
“We’re hopeful because last time I was here I wasn’t able to say that Italy and Spain were coming off their apex,” Birx said.
At the same time, Birx said that the latest projections still showed that nearly 100,000 Americans were likely to be killed by COVID-19.
“Dr. [Anthony] Fauci got another update from another modeler and that number came in close to that 100,000 number,” Birx said.
President Trump acknowledged that coming weeks would see a significant jump in the U.S. death toll from the virus, but the overall trajectory was encouraging. “We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said. “Things are happening.”
“Tomorrow or the next day are going to look really bad,” Fauci admitted, adding that was not incompatible with a flattening of the curve of new infections, reiterating his frequent point that deaths trail infections by two to two and a half weeks.
While saying that his administration had kept the U.S. death toll as low as was possible, the president also acknowledged that the final toll would be hard to swallow.
“The next week and a half, two weeks are going to be, I think they’re going to be very difficult. At the same time, we understand what they represent and what this time represents,” Trump said.