President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that national social distancing guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic will be extended through the end of April, walking back previous remarks that he hoped the crisis would subside enough for American businesses to reopen by Easter on April 12.
“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory has been won,” Trump said, adding that his goal of restoring the nation’s economy by Easter was just an “aspiration” and that he now hopes that the U.S. will “be well on our way to recovery” by June 1.
It will be up to state governors to decide when business will be allowed to reopen, but public health officials have said that the pandemic crisis is likely to last at least for two more months and that relaxation of current guidelines will ultimately depend on how successful different areas of the country are in containing the virus through social distancing measures.
Multiple states — including New York, California and Washington — have ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses and have urged residents to only leave their homes for essential errands. Countries worldwide have adopted similar measures as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is expected to soar past 1 million this week.
In his Sunday briefing, Trump that he now expects the coronavirus death rate in the U.S. to peak in two weeks, around Easter.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told CNN that the coronavirus could kill as many as 200,000 Americans and infect millions of people, though a heavy degree of uncertainty still hangs over how severe the crisis may become.
Currently, over 136,000 confirmed cases have been reported in the U.S., though the number of those infected is believed to be much higher due to the lack of testing in many areas of the country. Over 2,000 deaths nationwide and 30,000 deaths worldwide have been reported.