Trump Backs Off Returning To Normal Life By Easter
Donald Trump on Monday warned Americans to prepare for more disruption and death as authorities extend quarantine procedures for several more weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. president acknowledged on Sunday that his goal of returning to normality by Easter won't happen and said the federal guidelines for social distancing would remain in effect until April 30.
"Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days," Trump said.
He warned Americans to expect at least another month of social distancing — with all of its social and economic consequences — would be necessary. That decision was based on modeling that indicates the peak in fatalities might not arrive for another two weeks.
Public health authorities believe social isolation and bans on groups larger than 10 people will slow down the spread of COVID-19 and a smaller population of infected people will reduce the burden on hospitals and medical workers.
Virginia governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide "stay-at-home" decree that runs until June 10. San Francisco mayor London Breed extended the city's "stay safe" order until May 1.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States continues to climb, nearing 160,000, with nearly 3,000 deaths.
Public health authorities are framing the possible death toll in grim numbers. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, told NBC that in the best case, 200,000 people could die from the virus.
Trump said on Monday that Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, another specialist on the White House's coronavirus task force, showed him estimates that suggested if the U.S. returned to life as normal with no additional countermeasures, 2 million or more Americans could die.
But the precautions have delt a heavy blow to the economy. Millions of Americans are out of work after social distancing and isolation protocols forced the closure of countless businesses. Macy's said on Monday that it is furloughing some 130,000 workers.
One projection circulating on Monday put the potential nadir for the employment rate at a level worse than what was seen during the Great Depression.
Trump has signed legislation aimed at providing around $2.2 trillion worth of relief to the paralyzed economy. He and members of Congress haven't ruled out more legislation along those lines, depending on the way the coming weeks unfold.
The United States entered 2020 with record debt and the borrowing associated with this year's rescue package will be "mind-boggling," as one specialist told NPR.
Financial markets, at least, have been buoyed by the passage of the relief legislation and the commitments by leaders in Washington — including Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell — to take whatever measures are necessary to sustain the economy through the crisis.
Trump on Monday hailed what he called the valuable contributions made by American industry and invited a number of company bosses to discuss their production.
Trump also said that a number of companies are producing ventilators to help the growing number of hospital patients.
The latest announcement came from Ford and GE Healthcare, which are on track to build 50,000 ventilators within the next 100 days.
Trump said that if the country produces more ventilators than America can use, he will send the surplus machines to Europe, perhaps Italy, France or Spain. It isn't clear whether the U.S. government would give the equipment to these nations or their governments would buy them.