Trump hopes coronavirus leveling-off but advisers take tempered view

But top medical advisers adopt cautious view of drop in fatalities in New York

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump expressed hope on Sunday that the US was seeing a "leveling-off" of the coronavirus crisis in some of the nation's hot spots, but some of his top medical advisers took a more tempered view.

New York, the hardest-hit state, reported on Sunday that for the first time in a week, deaths had fallen slightly from the day before, but there were still nearly 600 new fatalities and more than 7,300 new cases.

"Maybe that's a good sign," Mr Trump told reporters at a White House briefing, referring to the drop in fatalities in New York.

While Mr Trump cited those numbers as an indication that Americans were starting to see "light at the end of the tunnel", Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of Mr Trump's coronavirus task force, said it took weeks for efforts like social-distancing and stay-at-home orders to slow the virus' spread.

Asked whether his and other experts' grim projections of a rising death toll was at odds with Mr Trump, he did not directly contradict the president, who has been accused by critics of often taking a more positive view than justified by the facts.

"What you're hearing about potential light at the end of the tunnel doesn't take away from the fact that tomorrow, the next day, are going to look really bad," Dr Fauci told reporters.

The US faces a critical week in the coronavirus crisis, with the US surgeon general warning on Sunday: "This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly."

"This is going to be our Pearl Harbour moment, our 9/11 moment, only it's not going to be localised," he warned on Fox News on Sunday.

"It's going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that."

But a few governors still resisted issuing stay-at-home orders and a handful of churches held large Palm Sunday services.

Most states have ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips, to slow the spread of the virus in the US where over 335,000 people have tested positive and over 9,500 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die in the pandemic, even if sweeping orders to stay home are followed.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that new hospitalisations had fallen by 50 per cent over the previous 24 hours, but he cautioned it was not yet clear whether the crisis was reaching a plateau in the state, which has 4,159 deaths and more than 122,000 cases.

Places such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, DC, are starting to see rising deaths.

"We hope we're seeing a leveling-off in the hottest spots of them all," Mr Trump said.

But he added: "You can never be happy when so many people are dying."

Mr Trump also said the US was "very far down the line" on developing vaccines for the coronavirus.

"We'll see what happens," he said. But he offered no specifics. - REUTERS