By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC NEWS(WASHINGTON)Despite the number of novel coronavirus cases surpassing one million in the U.S., President Donald Trump continues to push to reopen the country, with numbers out Wednesday morning that the country’s economy shrank nearly 5% in the first three months of this year, the biggest quarterly decline since the Great Recession.In lieu of a task force briefing, as the president’s communications team is reportedly shifting its focus from grim health statistics to a promising economic revival, Trump met with a governor in the Oval Office for a second day in a row.Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards of the hard-hit state of Louisiana visited the White House Wednesday morning, as GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did one day before him, and said that testing in his state is going well, while more governors look to lift restrictions before the weekend.With the White House social distancing guidelines set to expire Thursday, Trump told reporters in his meeting with the Louisiana governor that they’ll likely be “fading out” as Vice President Mike Pence said they’re largely already incorporated into the new reopening guidelines for states.The president continued to tout the country’s testing capacity as “superior” on Wednesday but backed off his claim that the U.S. will hit 5 million tests a day suggested “very soon” — claiming he never said that, when he had on Tuesday.Office meeting after breaking from the president Tuesday and saying everyone who needs a test will be able to get one “end of May, beginning of June” — seven weeks after Trump originally made the claim that “anyone who needs a test can get one.”But Fauci also shared what he called “good news” at Wednesday’s meeting. In clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments, Fauci said mortality rates have tended “better” with the drug remdesivir, adding that’s it’s “opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating.”President Trump also invoked the Defense Production Act late Tuesday — which several politicians have asked him to use to ramp up testing — to classify meat plants as “critical infrastructure” that can remain open amid the highly contagious pandemic.Here are the latest developments in the government response:Trump says current WH social distancing guidelines will not be extendedThe White House social distancing guidelines, initially enacted for 15-days and then extended for another 30, will not be renewed once they expire Thursday, April 30, President Trump said Wednesday in an Oval Office meeting.”They will be fading out. Now the governors are doing it. I’ve had many calls from governors,” Trump said, explaining individual governors can determine the guidelines that are best for their states. “They are explaining what they are doing. I am very much in favor of what they’re doing. They are getting it going. We are opening our country again.”White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx diplomatically backed the president up and expressed confidence that “every governor is adapting.””We have been very encouraged to see how the federal guidelines have helped inform or at least provide a framework for governors in moving forward all the way through from what they now call either phase zero all the way through phase three,” Birx said.It comes one day after a key forecasting model used by the White House raised its death toll to nearly 73,000 lives by early August, up 5,000 lives from last week as more states look to reopen, and the model adapts to human behaviors.Fauci touts promise of remdesivir in announcing findings of new studyThe nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci touted the potential promise of the drug remdesivir to treat the novel coronavirus in announcing the findings of an NIH study, calling it “good news” as he spoke in the Oval Office alongside President Trump.A randomized, international trial of the drug remdesivir resulted in shorter periods of patients experiencing symptoms and a slightly reduced mortality rate, according to Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which sponsored the trial.”What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Fauci said, calling the development both “very optimistic” and “highly significant.””The bottom line,” Fauci said, is that this is “opening the door” to the ability to better treat patients with the virus. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” he added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci touts the results of a trial examining remdesivir, an experimental drug treatment for the novel coronavirus, calling it “good news.”The trial has not yet been peer-reviewed but is being submitted to a journal for review, Fauci says. https://t.co/EbWH2wyNAN pic.twitter.com/v3djerUL3l
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Explaining why the government is making this announcement early, Fauci said there is an obligation to make this information available to those who have been in the placebo treatment group.”Whenever you have clear-cut evidence that a drug works, you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the people who are in the placebo group know, so that they can have access,” he said.President Trump called the drug’s promise a “very positive” event that can be built upon.”I think it’s the beginning. I think Tony explained it really well. It’s a beginning. It means you build on it. I love that it’s a building block. As a building block, I love that. Certainly it’s a positive, it’s a very positive event from that standpoint,” Trump said.The government’s announcement comes after another new study showed that some patients treated with remdesivir saw signs of improvement and raised no safety alarms, but medical experts have also urged caution that more studies are needed.– ABC News’ Ben Gittleson and Jordyn PhelpsTrump administration asks intelligence agencies to investigate whether China, WHO hid information on coronavirusTwo administration officials confirm to ABC News that the White House ordered intelligence agencies to review communications intercepts and other data to see whether China and/or the World Health Organization concealed information early on about the emerging coronavirus.The news was first reported by NBC.White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement: “As the president has said, the United States is thoroughly investigating this matter. Understanding the origins of the virus is important to help the world respond to this pandemic but also to inform rapid-response efforts to future infectious disease outbreaks.”– ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps and Ben GittlesonCommerce Department: US economy shrinks nearly 5% in first quarterThe real gross domestic product (GDP) the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the economy, shrank 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020, ending a record streak of expansion, according to a preliminary estimate released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday.This is the first decline since 2014 and the worst quarterly contraction since the Great Recession.It’s among the first economic indicators to show the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy.White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, while talking to reporters on the White House North Lawn Wednesday, candidly acknowledged it won’t recover in the second quarter either but be “significantly worse.””Next quarter is going to be much worse,” Kudlow said but added that he expects a “snapback” in the second half of the year.– ABC News’ Elizabeth ThomasCopyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.