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White House declares success while experts say the coronavirus fight isn't over

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump smiles during an event about reopening the country, with industry executives, in the State Dinning Room of the White House, on April 29, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — With the Trump White House’s social-distancing guidelines set to expire today, the president and key aides have been declaring success in the fight against the coronavirus.

And they’ve been doing it for weeks now.

March 24 (when more than 500 Americans had died from the coronavirus)

“Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy. Been going for a while, but we’ll win. We’ll win. I said earlier today that I hope we can do this by Easter. I think that would be a great thing for our country, and we’re all working very hard to make that a reality.” — President Trump at the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

April 16 (when more than 30,000 had died)

“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling, ‘Opening Up America Again.’ And that’s what we’re doing: We’re opening up our country. And we have to do that. America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open.” — Trump announcing the federal guidelines to reopen the economy.

April 28 (when more than 56,000 had died)

“So — but ventilators was going to be a big problem, and now we have really — I mean, through an incredible amount of work by the federal government, we have a big, big beautiful overcapacity. And it’s the same thing with testing. The only problem is the press doesn’t give credit for that because, you know, no matter what test you do, they’ll say, “Oh, you should have done this. You should have tested 325 million people 37 times.” No, the testing is going very well.” — Trump in his meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

April 29 (when more than 60,000 had died)

“We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this and I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. The federal government rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.” — White House adviser Jared Kushner to Fox News

But as Trump and key members of his team have tried to turn the page on the coronavirus, health experts caution that the war is far from over.

“‘Normal' will never be a thing until we have a vaccine," Ali Mokdad, chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington, tells NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci – who has stated that the virus, not the government, makes the timeline — said this on “Today” this morning: “The only thing I can do is, from 40,000 feet, just continue to urge the [states] who don't have that capability [to trace and crack down on future outbreaks is] to really go very slowly and those that do go ahead and go by the guidelines.”

More from Fauci: “You can't just leap over things and get into a situation where you're really tempting a rebound. That's the thing I get concerned about.”

Redeemed by remdesivir?

But here is some legitimate good news in the fight against the coronavirus: Fauci says one drug appears to be helping patients with the virus.

“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," Fauci said at the White House yesterday, per NBC News.

Yet there is caution as well: “Results from clinical trials are typically published in medical journals after review from outside experts. That hasn't happened yet with this latest study, but Fauci said that the results were so promising, there is ‘an ethical obligation to immediately let the placebo group know so they can have access’ to the drug,” NBC adds.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,047,925: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 29,763 more than yesterday morning.)

61,095: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,424 more than yesterday morning).

6.03 million: The number of coronavirus TESTS that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

25 percent: The capacity at which restaurants and retail stores in Florida can operate under phase one of the state’s reopening plan

Nearly a mile: The length of the line of cars waiting at a food distribution center in New Jersey last week, per the New York Times.

One in six: The share of nursing home facilities acknowledging coronavirus infections among residents or staff.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Biden names his VP selection team

“Joe Biden has named a former Senate colleague, a trusted longtime aide, and two political allies to head up his vice presidential search committee, his campaign announced Thursday,” NBC’s Mike Memoli and Marianna Sotomayor report.

“Former Sen. Chris Dodd, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Cynthia Hogan, a former counsel to Biden in the Senate and the White House, will lead the effort meant to advise Biden as he makes what is likely his most consequential political decision.

The campaign says the four will ‘conduct conversations across the party’ to inform the selection.”

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch flags the newest digital ad from the Trump campaign, which takes their “Promises Made, Promises Kept” message to voters.

The new spot includes Democratic governors praising the federal government’s coronavirus response, and NBC’s Monica Alba reports the five-figure digital ad will air on YouTube and Facebook.

It’s a clear attempt to push back on the criticism of their response and argue the administration has followed through for the American people. But it comes after Democrats have blanketed the airwaves with millions of dollars of TV ads attacking that response (while other ads from Trump allies like America First Action have focused primarily on attacking Joe Biden on the virus).

What Senate Democrats want

Senate Democrats laid out their latest coronavirus relief plan on Wednesday, and it focuses on federalizing the medical supply chain, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.

Its three main points:

  1. Use full authority of the Defense Production Act to stabilize the U.S. supply chain.
  2. Demand that President Trump “appoint a civilian as executive officer for critical medical equipment and supplies to lead and coordinate these efforts."
  3. Create an independent inspector general “to oversee critical efforts and maintain transparency”

The Lid: Not in Kansas anymore

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on the heated GOP Senate primary in the Sunflower State

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world?

Tom Winter and Pete Williams have the latest in the Michael Flynn case.

President Trump says he doesn’t believe polling that shows him trailing Joe Biden (and he’s reportedly not happy with his campaign manager.)

Trump’s top domestic policy adviser is leaving.

Supreme Court arguments are starting up remotely again next week.

Here’s what some Michigan experts have to say about Justin Amash’s potential role on the 2020 ballot.