President Donald Trump announced earlier this week that he has extended federal social distancing guidelines through the month of April in response to estimates that up to 240,000 Americans may die from the novel coronavirus if our guard is let down sooner.
According to USA Today, Trump administration officials offered solemn estimates, stating that without the precautionary social distancing measures taken across the nation, between 1.5 million to 2.2 million people could have died. If Americans continue to hunker down, however, the number of projected deaths could fall to between 100,000 and 240,000.
President Trump warned Americans to brace for a painful next two weeks, suggesting that the projections were so bad he reversed course from his recent optimism that the country could quickly “reopen” or allow less-affected areas to relax social distancing restrictions.
The social distancing guidelines recommend Americans work from home, avoid groups larger than 10, do not nursing homes and avoid unnecessary travel.
“This is going to be one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country,” he said at the press conference. “Our country is in the midst of a great national trial.”
Both Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tempered the news with a reminder that models used to estimate death tolls are subject to frequent change based on new information, and both were hopeful that an even lower death rate could be achieved.
“We really believe and we hope every day that we can do a lot better than that,” Birx said.
Looking at the state-by-state numbers, Trump and his aides showed models indicating that New York and New Jersey have been hit the hardest by the virus.
Analysts said New York City was hit particularly hard due in part to heavy travel at the start of the new year between the city and Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus originated.
“We pray for the doctors and the nurses, for the paramedics and the truck drivers, and the police officers and the sanitation workers, and above all, the people fighting for their lives in New York and all across our land,” Trump said.
Not long ago, the first signs of the tremendous economic downturn that would follow nationwide business closures led Trump to suggest that the social distancing guidelines could at least be relaxed by Easter, which falls on April 12 this year. He said it would be a “beautiful” time to ease up. After reviewing the projections over the weekend, however, Trump said he changed his mind immediately.
The president said on Sunday that he hoped the nation would be “well on our way to recovery” by June.
“As a nation, we face a difficult few weeks as we approach that really important day when we’re going to see things get better,” he said. “Our strength will be tested, and our endurance will be tried. This is the time for all Americans to come together and do our part.”
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