Trump: ‘Relax,’ stop hoarding food, supplies
Washington — President Donald Trump on Sunday called on Americans to cease hoarding groceries and other supplies, while one of the nation’s most senior public health officials called on the nation to act with more urgency to safeguard their health as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread across the United States. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he would like to see aggressive measures such as a 14-day national shutdown.
Trump assured Americans, after speaking with leading grocery chain executives, that grocers would remain open and that the supply chain remained healthy. Vice President Mike Pence urged Americans to only buy the groceries they need for the week ahead.
“You don’t have to buy so much,” Trump said at a news conference. “Take it easy. Just relax.”
The comments from the president after the government’s top infectious disease expert said he would like to see aggressive measures such as a 14-day national shutdown that would require Americans to hunker down even more to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci said travel restrictions within the United States, such as to and from hard-hit Washington state and California, probably will not be needed anytime soon.
The push by one of the nation’s foremost public health experts for Americans to act with greater urgency came as officials in Washington began preparing for what is expected to be a long-haul effort to try to stem the virus that has upended life around the globe.
At the White House, Trump tuned in to an online evangelical church service on what he designated as a national day of prayer and held a conference call with grocery and supply chain executives on how to keep food and other necessary supplies flowing to Americans.
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New protocols were on the way to protect the president and his staff. Starting Monday, those who enter the White House complex will have their temperatures taken, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss protocols not yet announced. This would expand on screenings that began Saturday for those in close proximity to the president and vice president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress had started work on a new aid package after the one just approved by the House early Saturday, which provided direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially and emotionally from the coronavirus pandemic. It included sick pay and other resources and was pending in Senate.
“We have already begun work to develop a third emergency response package,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.
With the U.S. Capitol among the many iconic landmarks closed to tours, Pelosi also urged lawmakers to have most of their Washington staff telework from home, as health officials urge social distancing. House lawmakers are away on weeklong recess and many have already curtailed office visits at their local offices, as well.
Fauci, the public face of the administration’s messaging in a round of morning TV interviews, said the country should do as much as “we possibly could,” even if officials are criticized for overreacting. He said he raised the issue of measures such as a shutdown with the Trump administration, and said officials were open to his ideas.
“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” said Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of coronavirus. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will ask Congress to reinstate powers that were used during the 2008 financial crisis to support the economy as the coronavirus threatens to significantly slow U.S. business activity in the weeks ahead.
Fauci said the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions should already be hunkering down, but other Americans, too, should consider further restricting their outside activity.