New Hot Spots Emerge; Trump Warns of ‘a Lot of Death’

The president veered from grim warnings to baseless assurances in a news conference, predicting a surging death toll in what may be “the toughest week” of the pandemic.

Veering from grim warnings to baseless assurances in a single news conference, President Trump on Saturday predicted a surging death toll in what he said may be “the toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic before also dispensing unproven medical advice. He suggested again that Americans might be able to congregate for Easter services next Sunday.

“There will be a lot of death,” he said at the White House, where he and other American officials depicted some parts of the United States as climbing toward the peaks of their crises, while warning that new hot spots were emerging in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

At one point Mr. Trump, who initially set Easter Sunday as a target date for reopening the country before backing off, said that the holiday would be a particularly sad day for Americans prohibited from gathering in large numbers. He said that he would like to consider relaxing social distancing rules for Easter services and that he had weighed the possibility of allowing church gatherings outdoors with “great separation.”

“It’s something we should talk about,” he added, though he did not announce any changes to existing federal recommendations. “But somebody did say that, ‘Well, then you’re sort of opening it up to that little, you know, do we want to take a chance on doing that when we’ve been doing so well?’”

More than 8,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, and the White House has said that its projections show that the virus could claim at least 100,000 lives in the country.

“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe, and that means everybody doing the six-feet distancing, washing their hands.”

Dr. Birx also said that Detroit, New York and Louisiana — the current hot spots — were likely to reach a peak in the next six to seven days, citing predictions by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The U.S. will stockpile an anti-malarial drug, the president says, despite scant proof that it works on the coronavirus.

President Trump appeared to suggest on Saturday that the federal government was placing large amounts of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in its Strategic National Stockpile, speaking optimistically about its potential to treat coronavirus patients and saying he would consider taking it himself if needed.

But only anecdotal reports and one small clinical trial have shown any benefits, and the F.D.A. has not approved the drug for coronavirus treatments. Also, a spike in interest in the drug has now left patients who rely on it for chronic diseases wondering whether they will be able to fill their prescriptions.

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