WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump says data indicates the United States is “past the peak” of the COVID-19 pandemic, clearing the way for his plans to roll out guidelines to begin to “reopen” the country.
“The battle continues, but the data suggests that nationwide, we have passed the peak on new cases. Hopefully that will continue and we will continue to make great progress,” said Trump at his daily press briefing Wednesday.
Trump called the latest data “encouraging,” saying they have “put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country.”
Trump said those guidelines will be unveiled Thursday at the White House after he speaks with the nation's governors.
The guidelines are expected to clear the way for an easing of social distancing guidelines in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit places. The ultimate decisions will remain with governors.
Also during Wednesday's briefing, Trump announced that he's threatening to use what he says is his constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress to clear the way for recess appointments to his administration.
Trump said lawmakers have made it difficult to run the federal government, saying “every week, they put up roadblocks.” He says that the current practice of conducting “phony, pro-forma” sessions of Congress so that he can’t make recess appointments is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during the coronavirus crisis.
He complains that some of his nominees have waited years for approval, though previous presidents have leveled similar complaints.
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Wednesday's briefing came as Trump faced criticism from some for halting America’s funding for the World Health Organization (WHO).
Trump announced the halt in funding on Tuesday, claiming WHO had parroted Chinese assurances about how the virus is spread, failed to obtain virus samples from China, and made a “disastrous decision” to oppose travel restrictions as the outbreak spread.
The head of the U.N. health agency has lamented the U.S. decision. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus promised a review of its decisions while sidestepping Trump’s complaints about its alleged mismanagement, cover-up and missteps.
Nations and health experts around the world have expressed alarm at Trump’s move and warned it could jeopardize efforts to fight the pandemic.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of reported coronavirus cases, and it has the highest reported death toll. At least 27,000 have died as a result of COVID-19 in the country as of Wednesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The New York area remains the epicenter of nation’s outbreak, with nearly 8,000 COVID-19 deaths in the city, Johns Hopkins reports.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Trump administration are still encouraging Americans to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus.