President Donald Trump said Tuesday “there’ll be more death” related to the coronavirus pandemic as a growing number of states move to slowly relax their stay-at-home mandates in the coming months.
"It's possible there will be some because you won't be locked into an apartment or a house or whatever it is," Trump told ABC News in an exclusive interview while visiting a mask-making factory in Arizona. "But at the same time, we're going to practice social distancing, we're going to be washing hands, we're going to be doing a lot of the things that we've learned to do over the last period of time.”
The president, meanwhile, did not wear a mask during his tour of the factory Tuesday. Honeywell spokeswoman Nina Krauss said that people who were interacting with Trump tested negative for COVID-19 before the event.
"Following White House recommended protocol, a small number of individuals directly interfacing with the President on Tuesday were tested for COVID-19 immediately prior to the event, received negative test results, and were permitted to not wear masks during portions of the visit based on that medical screening," she said. "All others present were wearing masks and social distancing in accordance with Honeywell’s site policy.“
Trump has faced mounting criticism, largely from Democrats, about hastily moving to reopen the country as new coronavirus cases emerge in some areas and states, such as Georgia and Texas, move to reopen as cases appear to stabilize. Public health experts have also warned that reopening too soon could lead to more death and economic damage.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Wednesday that "death is not an economic motivator, stimulator. So why are we going down that path? To unlock the lockdown is to test and trace and isolate social distancing and when science tells us to do something differently."
Pelosi also criticized Trump's decision not to wear a mask on Tuesday as "a vanity thing."
The number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases is nearing 1.2 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University as of Tuesday afternoon. There have been over 70,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
The president and the administration’s coronavirus task force, which is slated to disband within the next month, laid out a “blueprint” in late April to reopen the country in phases. The plan includes provisions to expand state testing capacity and establish widespread monitoring systems.
Many of the nation’s governors and public health officials have said that without access to widespread testing it will make the scope of the disease harder to track until there is a vaccine.
However, in the ABC News interview, Trump claimed that the virus is going “to pass” without a vaccine.
“There'll be more death, that the virus will pass, with or without a vaccine,” Trump said. “And I think we're doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it's going to pass, and we're going to be back to normal.”
That number was whittled down several weeks ago from 93 vaccines in development that were studied as part of the program, known as “Operation Warp Speed,” officials said.
Trump also claimed in the interview that anyone in the country who wants a test would be able to get one “right now” if they are afraid to return to work.
"They should have no problem," Trump said.
When pressed why he is urging a reopening even as government health experts, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that doing so too soon would be balancing death with the economy, Trump compared a rising coronavirus death toll to the nation’s suicide and drug overdose rate.
“We have to get our country back, you know, people are dying the other way too when you look at what's happened with drugs, it goes up, when you look at suicides,” Trump said. “I mean take a look at what's going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back and that's what we're doing.”
According to an April study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the U.S. from 1999 to 2018 steadily increased from 10.5 per 100,000 residents to 14.2. — or 35 percent. The CDC also found that deaths from drug overdose decreased by nearly 5 percent from 2017 to 2018.