In a sombre start to his daily briefing on the pandemic, the president said: “There will be a lot of death, unfortunately. There will be death.”
But he also expressed confidence the strict lockdown and other measures imposed in a number of states will be eased “sooner rather than later”.
He revisited a familiar message, saying he wants to get the economy up and running as soon as possible.
He later acknowledged that was not possible, ceding the month of April after seeing rising death toll projections even if restrictive measures remained in place.
But he insisted on Saturday: “We have to vanquish the virus as quickly as we can… We have to get back to work.”
And just days after extending tough national guidelines until the end of April, he revealed he has been speaking to the leaders of professional sports leagues about filling arenas again as soon as possible.
“This country was not designed to be closed,” he said. “The cure cannot be worse than the problem.
“I want fans back in the arenas. Whenever we’re ready, as soon as we can.”
The number of people infected in the US has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,100 – with more than 3,500 of those deaths in New York.
Mr Trump was joined for his briefing at the White House on Saturday by vice-president Mike Pence, virus task force co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx, and Dr Anthony Fauci, the US Government’s foremost infection disease expert.
The health officials offered some hope that social distance measures are working. Dr Fauci said he saw social distancing efforts as he went out for a walk in Washington, DC, with people waiting for takeaway food choosing to stand 6ft apart.
“As sobering and as difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a difference,” Dr Fauci said.