Trump extends virus guidelines, braces US for big death toll

Bracing the nation for a coronavirus death toll that could exceed 100,000 people, President Donald Trump extended restrictive social distancing guidelines through April, bowing to public health experts who presented him with even more dire projections for the expanding coronavirus pandemic.

It was a stark shift in tone by the Republican president, who only days ago mused about the country reopening in a few weeks. From the Rose Garden, he said his Easter revival hopes had only been “aspirational.”

The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday, and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. He instead decided to extend them through 30 April, a tacit acknowledgment he’d been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.

According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, there are nearly 140,000 confirmed virus cases in the United States and more than 2,400 people have died. Johns Hopkins recorded a record 518 new coronavirus-linked deaths in the past 24 hours, up from the previous day's increase of 453.

Trump said he expects the country "will be well on our way to recovery" by 1 June - dropping his previous target of Easter.

"June 1," he said. "That's aspirational but I think we're gonna hit it."

Trump’s impulse to reopen the country met a sober reality check Sunday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, who said the US could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic. That warning hardened a recognition in Washington that the struggle against the coronavirus will not be resolved quickly even as Trump expressed a longing for normalcy.

Trump told “Fox and Friends” in an interview Monday morning that “nobody” was “more worried” about the economic impact on the country than him, but said, “We want to do something where we have the least death.”

The president said there would be an "important" announcement on Tuesday about the government's plans and strategy going forward.

"We're going to have a meeting, speech, press conference or something on Tuesday," he said. "We will be finalizing these plans and providing a summary of our findings, supporting data and strategy to the American people."

Trump was also asked if he would support another massive economic relief package such as the $2.2 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last week.

"I'm prepared to do whatever's necessary to number one, save lives and number two, bring our economy back strong, just like it was before," he said. "I think our economy has a chance to be just as good and even better than it was before."

 

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