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Trump Extends Social Distancing to April 30 as COVID-19 Cases Surge

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HealthDay Reporters

MONDAY, March 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- As U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise, President Donald Trump on Sunday backed down on plans to re-open the country by Easter -- instead extending strict social distancing guidelines for the country to April 30.

By Monday morning, more than 141,000 COVID-19 cases had been reported nationwide, with almost 2,500 deaths, the New York Times reported.

Apparently convinced by the data his public health experts have shown him that indicate easing social distancing too quickly escalate the number of cases and deaths, Trump said all Americans must continue to avoid nonessential travel, going to work, eating at bars and restaurants, or gathering in groups of more than 10 for at least another month, the Times reported.

"During this period, it's very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines. Have to follow the guidelines," Trump said during a media briefing Sunday afternoon. "Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread."

"We can expect that by June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery," he added.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and the country's top infectious diseases expert, had estimated that 200,000 people could die from coronavirus in the United States, the Times reported.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, added that without any social distancing measures, the same computer models project that nearly 2 million Americans could die from COVID-19.

"The idea that we may have these many cases played a role in our decision in trying to make sure that we don't do something prematurely, and pull back when we should be pushing," Fauci explained during the Sunday media briefing.

"Dr. Birx and I spent a considerable amount of time going over all the data, why we felt this was a best choice for us, and the president accepted it," Fauci said.

Travel advisory for states near New York City

In an unprecedented move on Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all residents of three states surrounding New York City -- New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- to refrain from travel to other states over the next 14 days, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Although coronavirus hotspots continue to emerge throughout the country, New York City remains the epicenter of the American epidemic, with thousands of cases reported and area hospitals overwhelmed.

"The Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory," the CDC said in a statement issued Saturday.

According to news media, the advisory comes after Trump considered -- but then decided against -- an order from the White House to quarantine all residents of the three states.

A federally mandated quarantine was met with severe opposition by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "If you start walling off areas all across the country, it would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, antisocial," he told the Times.

Also on Saturday, a baby in Illinois became the first infant in the United States to die from COVID-19. It's an exceedingly rare occurrence, since newborns and infants appear to be largely unaffected by the new coronavirus, the Times noted.

Economic help

As the U.S. economy continues to falter, Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package into law on Friday.

The legislation will send $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, along with $500 per child. It will also give an additional 13 weeks in unemployment aid and a four-month enhancement of jobless benefits, the Times reported.

The package also includes $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and the creation of a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies. Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic will also get $100 billion in aid, the Times reported.

Also on Friday, Trump issued an order to force General Motors to manufacture ventilators, the Times reported. The action represented an about-face after he had largely dismissed the outcry for ventilators earlier in the day. In addition, he signed an order on Friday that permits the Pentagon to bring former troops back to active duty to help with the military's response to the pandemic.

All of the help comes not a moment too soon, as more than 100 million Americans have been ordered by their state's governors to stay home.

New York state is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with at least 59,568 cases and nearly 1,000 deaths, according to the Times.

Things are particularly dire in New York City, as hospitals that have become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and now face a shortage of many medical supplies, the Times reported.

Cuomo did offer up some good news last week, saying that social distancing measures might be working. The state's hospitalization estimations were down markedly, from a doubling of cases every two days to a doubling every four days.

And in New Rochelle, N.Y., drastic measures to contain a cluster there appeared to be paying off with a slowing in new cases, the Times reported.

New U.S. hotspots

But cases are just starting to spike elsewhere, particularly in the South: Louisiana, Florida and Georgia are facing alarming increases, with 11,802 cases and 294 deaths reported in those three states alone, the Times reported Monday.

New Orleans now has more cases than Los Angeles County, which is 25 times larger, CBS News reported.

And some health officials are warning that parts of Michigan and Illinois could be the next epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said last week that health officials are concerned that counties like Wayne County, Mich., and Cook County, Ill., are showing a "more rapid increase" in cases.

Along with Cuomo, at least 21 other governors have announced stay-at-home orders in states including California, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington state and Hawaii, CNN reported.

Earlier this month, Trump approved disaster declarations for regions hit hardest by the pandemic, activating the National Guard in three states.

The declarations will bring supplies, medical stations and naval hospital ships to New York, Washington state and California, CNN reported.

'Nowhere near ready'

"We are in for a bumpy ride for the next 12 to 18 months," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN. "If we are aggressive now about stopping things, shutting down, building up a test regime, we can then open up again … and most places can go back to work. But only when we are ready. And we are nowhere near ready now."

Around the world last week, countries took desperate measures to slow the spread of coronavirus: India ordered a 21-day shutdown of a country in which 1.3 billion people live, while Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Summer Olympics in that country. On Monday, organizers announced the games will be held in July 2021, CNN reported..

The United Kingdom has also ordered a shutdown of its country, while Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, was diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, CNN reported. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday, CNN reported.

As countries around the world wonder what is in store for their citizens in the coming months, one glimmer of hope has emerged: Last week, China lifted travel restrictions on the Hubei province, which was hardest hit by coronavirus earlier this year. On Sunday, public transportation was re-opened in Wuhan, the city that was the original epicenter of the outbreak, the Associated Press said.

The good news in China stood in sharp relief to what is unfolding in Italy.

Italy has now passed China for coronavirus cases, reporting close to 98,000 cases and almost 11,000 deaths, a Johns Hopkins tally shows. The virus has been especially deadly for older Italians. But the country has seen a slowing in the rate of new infections, the Times reported Monday.

States race to contain virus

In the meantime, the public lives of Americans have come to a halt, as the coronavirus pandemic has prompted officials across the country to close, cancel or postpone any event or activity that might foster the spread of COVID-19.

New York, New Jersey and California have been hard hit by coronavirus cases in the United States. New York has almost 60,000 cases, New Jersey has more than 13,000 cases and California has nearly 6,300 cases, according to the Times.

A surge of coronavirus cases in California has begun and will worsen, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday, the AP reported, while the mayor of Los Angeles warned that his city could soon see the kind of hospital crush that has crippled New York City.

"We are now seeing the spike that we were anticipating," Newsom declared while standing in front of the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship Mercy that arrived in the Port of Los Angeles on Friday. It will take non-virus patients to free up rooms at hospitals for coronavirus cases.

However, signs of hope emerged in Washington state, where strict social distancing measures may be contributing to a leveling off in new cases, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, officials in Florida have closed all beaches in the state after young spring breakers ignored social distancing guidelines and partied with abandon on the sand. And on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis put a two-week halt on any new vacation rentals and ordered state troopers to stop drivers from Louisiana to tell them to self-isolate for 14 days. Florida now has almost 5,000 cases, with 59 deaths.

Worldwide, the case count neared 738,000 while the death toll approached 35,000 on Sunday, according to the Hopkins tally.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, March 28, 2020; March 24, 2020, media briefing with President Donald Trump; CNN; Associated Press; The New York Times; CBS News

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