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White House COVID-19 Briefing: Trump Waffles On 'Easter' Timeline

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President Donald Trump at today's news briefing appeared to double down on his hope to get the country "opened up" by Easter, and then quickly walked that statement back.

During his remarks that began the briefing, Trump said:

"Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country... I said earlier today that I hope we could do this by Easter. I think that would be a great thing for our country, and we are all working very hard to make that a reality."

His "earlier today" reference was to his appearance Tuesday on a Fox News TV special. His proposed Easter timeline
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greatly alarmed health experts.

However, when pressed by a reporter during the question and answer period about whether the doctors in the White House's COVID-19 task force agreed with that timeline, Trump said: "We're going to look at it. We'll only do it if it's good."

When the same reporter asked who suggested the Easter timeline, he replied, "I just thought it was a beautiful time."

The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has continued to sharply climb in recent days and now number more that 53,000, the third most in the world. The numbers in Southern California have also been rising, with 11 deaths and more than 660 cases in L.A. County as of today.

Much of the White House coronavirus task force briefing focused on the New York metro area, which has been extremely hard hit with the virus in the past few days. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that the rate of infection there is "doubling every three days" and, at least so far, they had failed to "flatten the curve" of COVID-19's spread.

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Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House task force, noted that many people are leaving New York, and asked that anyone who has been there recently self-quarantine for 14 days.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said that federal lawmakers are considering a coronavirus relief package that would total $6 trillion.

Note: President Trump usually opens these news conference with his own remarks. His comments in a number of past briefings have later been contradicted by information provided by other officials. He has also repeatedly used stigmatizing language to describe COVID-19. Following the president's remarks, health experts and other adminstration leaders provide additional updates.

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