The regular White House briefing on the U.S. response to the Coronavirus aired slightly differing views on the path of the White House effort to convince Americans to sharply curtail their social activities, as the President on Thursday saw a glass half full with progress being made, while a top health official publicly pressed Americans to do more to limit the spread of the virus.
"I can tell by the curve, as it is today, that not every American is following" the President's social distancing guidelines, said Dr. Deborah Birx, as she chided people for holding dinner and cocktail parties.
"So, this is really a call to action," Birx told reporters.
Taking a different approach, President Trump tried to emphasize the positive, talking up states where no rush of Coronavirus cases had been seen, and seemingly suggesting that Dr. Birx do the same.
"I think that's what you meant," the President said to Birx at one point.
Dr. Birx: "I know you've seen the slope in the United States vs. the slope in Italy. We have to change that slope...we see country after country having done that. What it means in the United States is not everyone is doing it...so this is really a call to action..." pic.twitter.com/mQ58Gd6Gbt— CSPAN (@cspan) April 2, 2020
President Trump just made clear he doesn’t want a headline saying Americans aren’t doing enough social distancing. He says the US is doing phenomenally. Birx is saying Americans need to step it up. Deaths from #CoronavirusPandemic are increasing nationwide.— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) April 2, 2020
Like a teacher expressing her displeasure with the behavior of her students, Birx repeatedly made clear at Thursday's briefing that she was not pleased with how some Americans have responded to the President's call for action.
"What I expected when the President put out guidelines, that said don't go to bars, don't be in groups of 10 people," Birx told reporters, "that was serious."
"But Debra, aren't you referring to just a few states?" the President said, standing next to her.
"We have states doing incredibly well," the President said a few minutes later.
The back and forth played out for reporters - and a nationwide television audience - in real time from the White House Briefing Room.
"I think that everybody would have to be thrilled with the way most states are doing," the President said at one point.
"I am passionate about everyone following the guidelines," Birx added a minute later, as she warned that other states seem ready to follow the bad path of New York and New Jersey.
Dr. Birx on bottom line testing data: "We do have two states that do have 35% positives; New York & New Jersey...Louisiana though has 26%...Michigan, Connecticut, Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, so that should tell you where the next hot spots are coming, are at 15%." pic.twitter.com/0APAYG4qiU— CSPAN (@cspan) April 2, 2020
While the President acknowledged growing virus problems in Louisiana and Michigan, he again returned to his overall assessment.
"We have states that have been really incredible, by the fact they have kept so low," Mr. Trump added.
"I think they've done a good job," the President said. "We've done on average really phenomenally as a country."
Mr. Trump's remarks came as the U.S. recorded over 1,000 deaths from the Coronavirus in a day for the first time, as over 2,000 people died in just two days, sending the overall U.S. death toll to almost 6,000 on Thursday evening.