• Researchers are evaluating whether two malaria drugs are effective in treating the coronavirus
  • The number of U.S. cases is skyrocketing as a result of more widespread testing and faster processing of those tests
  • Trump said an international travel ban is under consideration

Update: 5 p.m. EDT

The U.S. State Department Thursday advised Americans against all international travel and recommended they return home immediately or chance being trapped overseas as more countries lock down their borders.

Original story

President announced Thursday drugs used to treat malaria and severe arthritis is showing promise as a treatment for coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration has approved hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for use against COVID-19.

“It’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful,” Trump said as he praised the FDA for cutting red tape and speeding clinical trials for treatments. “We know if things do not go as planned, it isn’t going to kill anybody. When you go with a brand new drug, you don’t know.”

“It could be a game-changer,” Trump told a White House news briefing as U.S. cases of the virus topped 10,755 with about 150 deaths.

Dr. Deborah Birx said the sharp increase in diagnoses is largely the result of more rapid processing of tests for the virus and an increase in the pace of testing. She said tens of thousands of tests are now being performed and processed by state and private laboratories.

Trump also said Carnival Cruise Line has offered use of its ships to house coronavirus victims.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Gilead's remdesivir also is in clinical trials and has been approved for compassionate use.

"We want to make sure this is done well and done right," Hahn told reporters. "We're working as quickly as we can."

Trump was sharply critical of China's failure to inform the world early on about the virus. If they had, he said, "it could have been stopped in place. ... Now the whole world almost is afflicted with his horrible virus," which he again referred to as the "China virus." The disease has been reported in 159 countries.

Hydroxychloroquine was developed a half century ago and is sold under the brand name, Plaquenil. Chinese scientists say chloroquine was more effective than hydrochloroquine in killing the coronavirus in laboratory tests but also is more toxic to patients.

Hahn said in addition to possible drugs, the FDA also is looking at convalescent plasma as a possible treatment. It would involve collecting plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus and giving it to the ill. He said it was unclear whether that would work but if it does, it would provide a bridge until other therapies are developed.

Trump was to hold a teleconference with the nation’s governors at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss FEMA’s role in dealing with the virus. He said he also has a meeting scheduled with the State Department on whether to recommend Americans refrain from all international travel.

Birx said half of the U.S. cases are in three states and concentrated in 10 counties.

Vice President Mike Pence said 3M has ramped up production of face masks, and 35 million now are available for sale to hospitals.

When it comes to the economy, Trump said he’s not averse to the federal government taking an equity stake in companies hard hit by the crisis, including airlines, hotels and cruise ships because “you don’t want to lose industries like that.” He said he’s focused, however, on helping small businesses.

On oil, Trump said he is torn on the issue. He said he likes the idea of cheap gas but realizes the current price and production war between Russia and Saudi Arabia could be devastating to U.S. oil producers.