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As the U.S. coronavirus death toll passed 70,000, President Trump departed the White House for his first cross-country trip since the pandemic’s eruption, visiting an Arizona Honeywell plant that makes N95 masks. Despite a projection that daily deaths in the U.S. will continue to rise for weeks, states continue to weigh how and when to reopen their economies. John Yang reports.
The COVID-19 pandemic has now claimed more than 70,000 lives in the United States. That news comes on a day when President Trump broke a long spell of confinement in Washington and traveled 2,300 miles West.
We begin with this report from John Yang.
President Donald Trump:
As President Trump left the White House today for his first cross-country trip since the pandemic gripped America, he dismissed an internal government report that projected a steep rise in deaths, even as states ease restrictions.
It's a report with no mitigation, so, based on no mitigation. But we're doing a lot of mitigation. And, frankly, when the people report back, they are going to be social distancing, and they are going to be washing their hands, and they are going to be doing the things that you're supposed to do.
In Phoenix, President Trump toured a Honeywell aerospace plant that now produces N95 masks, but did not wear a mask himself.
He said the White House Coronavirus Task Force could soon be going out of business.
We're now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening. And we will have a different group probably set up for that.
In Washington, lawmakers returned to the Capitol, but business was anything but normal.
A Senate confirmation hearing for Mr. Trump's pick to be director of national intelligence was held in a nearly empty room. Senators rotated in and out to keep their distance from each other. And in the House, lawmakers wearing masks welcomed their newest colleague, Maryland's Kweisi Mfume.
The Democrat-controlled House had hoped to hear this week from Dr. Anthony Fauci, but the White House blocked his appearance. Today, President Trump said Fauci would be allowed to testify at a hearing in the Republican-majority Senate.
Meanwhile, states are wrestling with how to reopen their economies. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned of the cost of reopening too quickly. The state today reported more than 1,700 previously undisclosed COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes.
Governor Andrew Cuomo:
In a nursing home, that coronavirus, and all it takes is one person, one staff person who doesn't have a temperature, is not symptomatic. All it takes is one person to bring that virus in there.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, dozens gathered to rally against that state's restrictions.
We must protect our liberty, and it is time to reopen N.C.
But similar measures appear to have paid off in places like South Korea. Officials there logged just three new cases today, the lowest in nearly three months. Now some South Korean students are poised to go back in school as early as next week.
And sports-starved fans were finally able to indulge, albeit from inside their homes. Korea's professional baseball league kicked off its new season today, with no spectators in the stands.
But a similar step toward normalcy in India, where infections are still soaring, backfired. Crowds flocked to the streets after the government took its first steps to end its lockdown, and social distancing fell by the wayside, as lines outside liquor stores stretched for blocks. In response, the government imposed a 70 percent tax on liquor.
In Europe, new evidence that the virus may have arrived earlier than previously thought. A Paris hospital discovered a COVID-19 case dating back to December, nearly a month before France confirmed what had been thought to be its first case.
A World Health Organization official said it was no surprise.
It's also possible that more early cases to be found as countries retest samples from patients who were sick in December, January of unspecified pneumonia or other reasons.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.
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John Yang is a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. He covered the first year of the Trump administration and is currently reporting on major national issues from Washington, DC, and across the country.
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