Coronavirus government response updates: White House warns of dire two weeks ahead

(WASHINGTON) — Members of the coronavirus task force have warned Americans to brace for dark days ahead.

After the surgeon general likened the coming weeks to Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and as the nation’s top doctors cautioned against even going to grocery store or pharmacy unless absolutely necessary, President Donald Trump on Sunday clung to an optimistic tone, telling Americans there will be “light at the end of the tunnel” and reviving his phrase that “the cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.”

On Monday morning, the president’s top trade adviser turned Defense Production Act policy coordinator Peter Navarro doubled down on his defense of an anti-malarial drug to treat COVID-19, after Axios reported Navarro lashed out at infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci over the drug’s efficiency this weekend.

While Fauci has been publicly skeptical of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, citing a lack of scientific evidence at this stage, Trump spent much of Sunday’s briefing telling Americans they have little to lose by trying the drug and even appeared to block Fauci from answering a question about it.

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

Navarro calls himself a “social scientist” as divide grows between Trump, Fauci over hydroxychloroquine

Calling himself a “social scientist,” White House trade adviser and Defense Production Act policy coordinator Peter Navarro argued to CNN this morning that he is qualified to disagree with Dr. Anthony Fauci on the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment and defended “the possibility” of its efficiency — which Fauci has emphasized is not yet proven.

“Doctors disagree about things all the time. My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I’m a social scientist,” Navarro told CNN’s New Day.

The president’s top trade adviser said he was offering a “second opinion,” on the drug and primarily referenced a control group study out of Wuhan, China — done with moderately ill patients and was not double-blind but showed some potential benefits — adding he had spoken to some doctors who had found it useful. He also claimed some on the frontlines were taking the drug as a prophylactic.

“The issue wasn’t about me offering my medical opinion,” Navarro said, when asked about Saturday’s Situation Room argument first reported by Axios. “The question was whether we should take the 29 million doses in the FEMA storehouses and surge them into the zones, and it was unanimous in that task force meeting to do so. So, that’s the only question I posed.”

Trump indicated on Sunday that the government is using federal resources to make the drug available, saying, “We have stockpiled 29 million pills of the hydroxychloroquine…And they’re not expensive. What do you have to lose?”

Giroir: ‘Optimistic’ by May there will be tens of millions of antibody tests available to Americans

Adm. Brett Giroir, who is leading COVID-19 testing efforts in the U.S., said he was “very optimistic” that by May there will potentially be tens of millions of blood tests available to Americans to determine if they have already been exposed to the virus.

“I am personally very optimistic that by May we are going to have these in very large quantities with all the needed supplies,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Serologic testing, more commonly known as an antibody test, only requires a drop of blood and sniffs out virus antibodies. The test can’t detect whether an individual presently has the virus, but it can tell if they already had it or had been exposed to it at some point in the past because their immune system has developed antibodies to fight it.

Combined with the other swab test for presence of an active virus, the two tests could provide a way forward, he said, and “There are several that are going through the FDA right now.”

“That’s really important as we think about re-opening the country and the economy because if you’ve had the virus and you’ve had an immune response to it, in all probability you are immune and safe from the virus,” Giroir added.

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