WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Saturday announced it would prevent non-Americans in the U.K. and Ireland from entering the United States and hinted at domestic travel restrictions “from certain areas” in the U.S., the latest escalations of the federal government’s efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump, in a short appearance during a White House press briefing, also said he supported U.S. restaurants and stores that have closed their doors in an effort to promote social distancing. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged the public to follow that strategy — in many cases, not for individuals’ own sake but to protect older, sicker Americans.
“We need your help,” Adams said. “Social distancing and mitigation, they’re not to protect the 30-year-old or the 20-year-old from getting coronavirus. They’re to protect your nana, they’re to protect your granddaddy, they’re to protect the people you love in your lives.”
Vice President Mike Pence urged Americans who are sick to stay home. He cited a bill that passed the House late Friday that reimburses small businesses — but not companies with 500 or more employees — for providing 14 days of emergency leave to employees sick with Covid-19, and for those caring for family members with the disease. The bill, which the Senate is expected to take up Monday, also expands unemployment insurance and food stamps for low-income families.
“You need not be concerned if you’re an hourly wage earner in America,” Pence said. “You need not be concerned about staying home. If you’re sick, stay home. You’re not going to miss a paycheck because of this legislation that’s moving through the Congress.”
The president also said he had his temperature taken prior to the briefing, and that he had been tested for Covid-19, the respiratory disease that the coronavirus causes. The White House said it would begin temperature checks for all individuals scheduled to come into contact with Trump or Pence. Trump said results would likely come within one to two days. Pence said he and Second Lady Karen Pence would be willing to be tested as well.
The move comes after both Trump and Pence made contact with a Brazilian government official who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Physicians do not recommend testing for most Americans without Covid-19 symptoms, and the White House physician on Friday issued a statement arguing it was unnecessary from Trump to be tested.
Trump also justified repeatedly shaking the hands of private-sector executives during a Rose Garden press conference Friday, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance discouraging handshakes.
Deborah Birx, the physician and longtime diplomat who the Trump administration brought on to coordinate its coronavirus response, issued a special warning to Americans who have lived with HIV/AIDS for decades and may still “carry a degree of immunocompromise.”
“Please take care of yourself,” she said. “Please ensure that you’re doing everything possible to ensure you don’t get exposed.”
While members of the task force, including Adams, Pence, and Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease researcher, emphasized social distancing and travel restrictions as valuable tools for combating the pandemic, Trump doled out plaudits — some self-directed — for his administration’s response.
Trump said he was “honored” by the stock market’s Friday rebound and suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic had “created a number of new stars,” specifically citing Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Fauci, 79, is a renowned HIV doctor who has served as the nation’s infectious disease research chief since 1984, and was awarded the President Medal of Freedom in 2008.
Adams, however, took a uniquely sharp tone, telling the public he felt the need to speak hard truths as “America’s doctor.”
“If we are complacent, selfish, uninformed, if we spread fear and distrust and misinformation, this situation will last longer and more people will be hurt,” Adams said. “But if we pitch in and we share the facts, we will flatten the curve, and we will overcome this situation.”