President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force on Monday. | Evan Vucci / AP Photo
President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in an urgent urgent bid to slow the virus in the next two weeks before U.S. Hospitals are overwhelmed.
“It’s bad. It’s bad, ”the president said at a news conference after releasing guidelines that called for people to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people and to steer clear of eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts.
The guidelines – including a strict recommendation that anyone with even minor symptoms stay home – are not mandatory. But they were issued with a sense of alarm and a frankness that Trump has not previously displayed.
The president also acknowledged that the crisis – which has already killed thousands around the world and set off a plunge of world markets – could last months. No country, including the United States, has it under control, he said.
“Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus,” Trump said. “If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation, and we will defeat the virus, and we’re going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly. ”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while some people may perceive the guidelines as inconvenient or going too far, they reflect a deteriorating assessment of the containment efforts and should be taken seriously.
“When you’re dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think that today reflect where you really are. That’s not word speak. It means if you think you’re here, ”Fauci said, gesturing to illustrate his point,“ you’re really here because you’re only getting the results. Therefore, it will always seem that the best way to address it would be to be doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction. It isn’t an overreaction. ”
The White House gave the country a 15 – day window to flatten the soaring curve of infection, but some disease modelers see a trajectory that could create a crisis, similar to Italy, that would start to overwhelm the US health care system in about days.
The new guidelines come on the heels of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance Sunday night that recommended the cancellation and postponement of gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. It also comes after the Office of Personnel Management declared federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area open but with maximum flexibility for telework.
Trump was joined at the briefing by his key health advisers, including Fauci, Deborah Birx and Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the administration’s response.
A growing number of governors earlier Monday followed the lead of fellow executives, announcing closures of bars, restaurants and other venues in states across the country. Trump held separate video teleconferences with G-7 leaders and governors on Monday morning to discuss the response to the coronavirus.
“Went very well,” he tweeted after speaking to governors.
During the conversation, however, Trump urged governors to try to get respirators, ventilators and other equipment themselves.
“We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves,” the president told them, according to a source in the room. “Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
The New York Times first reported the president’s remarks to governors.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN on Monday morning that the U.S. was “at a critical inflection point,” noting that America now has the same number of cases that Italy had two weeks ago. Italy is now on lockdown as it deals with more than 27, 000 cases of the coronavirus, trailing only China, where the outbreak began.
“We have a choice to make: Do we want to really lean into social distancing and mitigation strategies and flatten the curve or do we just want to keep going on with business as usual and end up being Italy ? ” Adams said.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 4, 100 cases have been confirmed in the US , though experts expect that number to rise as more testing becomes available. More than 70 people have died.
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