U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that coronavirus restrictions, which have shut down businesses in many places across the country, could themselves lead to suicides or other fatalities.
“You’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression. You’re going to lose people. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands,” the president said on Fox News Channel.
The president cited no evidence to support the assertion.
“We have to get our country back to work. Our country wants to be back at work,” Trump said. “This cure is worse than the problem. Again, people, many people – in my opinion more people – are going to die if we allow this to continue. We have to go back to work. Our people want to go back to work.”
Senior Pentagon leaders said on Tuesday that the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak that has hit the United States could continue for months and that the military would continue to support efforts to counter it for as long as needed.
The outbreak has infected more than 50,000 people in the United States and killed at least 660, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order about 100 million people – nearly a third of the nation’s population – to stay at home.
"I think we need to plan for this to be a few months long at least and we're taking all precautionary measures to do that," U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said when asked how long the outbreak may last and how long the military would continue the support efforts to counter it.
"I am fully confident that at the end of the day, in a period of months, we will get through this," Esper said during a virtual town hall.
At the same event, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, said that while it was unclear how long the outbreak would last, taking models from the experience of other countries - which may or may not apply to the United States - the outbreak could last into July.
"If it does apply, you're looking at probably late May, June, something in that range, could be as late as July," Milley said.
In a sign of the impact the virus was having on the U.S. military, the Navy announced that three sailors had tested positive for the coronavirus aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, the first known case of the virus aboard a U.S. military ship at sea.
The carrier, which was in the Pacific, was last in port in Vietnam about 15 days ago, naval officials said.