U.S. President Donald Trump raised his projection of how many people will die from COVID-19, while pledging additional economic support as he looks toward further reopening of the country.
“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That’s a horrible thing,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall broadcast Sunday night.
Last week, he said projected coronavirus deaths would be between 60,000 and 70,000 people.
As the Senate prepared to reconvene Monday, Trump said the federal government could double its current $3 trillion in emergency aid. So far, those funds have gone to help small businesses stay afloat, to provide supplies to hospitals, and to put money in the hands of taxpayers.
“There is more help coming,” Trump said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber was returning to work on continued COVID-19 action as well as other urgent matters.
“All across our nation, American workers in essential sectors are following expert advice and taking new precautions while they continue reporting for duty and performing irreplaceable work their country needs. Starting Monday, the Senate will do the same,” McConnell said in a statement.
Leaders in the House of Representatives have thus far not announced plans to meet in Washington, while asking Capitol physicians to share guidance on how to do so safely.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said there needs to be detailed procedures for disinfecting surfaces and protecting people from exposure, and that social distancing guidelines “will likely have to remain in place for some time.”
McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a joint statement declining the Trump administration’s offer of deploying rapid COVID-19 tests for people on Capitol Hill, saying they will stick with current testing protocols implemented by Capitol doctors.
“Our country’s testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly,” the leaders said.
The United States leads the world with more than 1.1 million confirmed cases and about 68,000 deaths.
Public health officials have expressed concern about the number of Americans who are failing to listen to social distancing orders and states relaxing stay-at-home guidelines before sustained drops in coronavirus cases.
This week, more states join those relaxing lockdown restrictions, including Florida’s move allowing restaurants and shops to operate with limits on how many people can be inside starting Monday.
By Tuesday, more than 30 of the 50 U.S. states will be experiencing some form of reopening.
That has been a priority for Trump as economic activity has slowed significantly and millions of people have lost their jobs.
“What I want to do is, number one, we’re getting rid of the virus. We have to do it,” Trump said at the town hall Sunday. “We’re working with the governors, we’re getting rid of the virus, but we’ve got to put our country back to work.”
No U.S. state has met the original White House directive that they see a continuous two-week decline in the number of coronavirus cases before allowing businesses to reopen or people to gather in public places.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, told Fox News Sunday that the best advice for Americans was to continue “steady washing of hands” and to “shelter in place.”
She also said that while it is possible the race to develop and test could result in a coronavirus vaccine by next January, there are no assurances of meeting that timetable.
Trump was more optimistic, saying Sunday night he thinks there will be a vaccine available by the end of this year.