President Donald Trump on Sunday announced he’s extending his administration’s guidelines on social distancing amid the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30.
Trump said last week he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.
Trump said Friday he would be consulting with his administration’s top medical experts on whether to extend or change the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But on Sunday, Trump said the Easter target date was “just an aspiration” and said he expects “great things to be happening” by June 1. Instead, Trump said he believes Easter will mark “the peak number, and it should start coming down, hopefully very substantially at that point.”
Trump said his administration felt Easter “was too soon” and “we can’t take a chance.”
Instead, Trump said he felt June 1 would mark “the bottom of the hill.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said the choice to extend the guidelines was not made lightly.
“We know it’s a huge sacrifice for everyone,” she said, adding that more detailed guidance will be released Tuesday.
Earlier Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN”s “State of the Union” he anticipates the coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans while infecting “millions,” though he said the outbreak is difficult to model as it is “such a moving target.”
At the briefing later on Sunday, Fauci said, “The reason the president made the announcement today about going to the end of April is because we want to make sure that we don’t prematurely think we’re doing so great.”
He added, “We may be, but we want to push it to the extreme.”
Trump said his administration was extending the guidelines with hopes of avoiding a catastrophic death toll.
“So if we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job,” Trump said.
Asked if he considered easing guidelines in states that have not been hit as hard by the virus yet, Trump said he, Fauci and Birx were not fans of that idea.
“They said, we don’t like that idea,” Trump said. “They didn’t like the idea. We could do it, but I don’t think it will be good.”
Much of the nation is currently shuttered to contain the spread of the disease, which first appeared in China late last year. As of Sunday morning, roughly 140,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., the highest total of any nation, with more than 2,400 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.