President Donald Trump had set Easter, April 12, as a target date for the end of the social distancing recommendations the federal government had put in place in an effort to slow — or stop — the spread of COVID-19. But in light of new data, the president announced Sunday that his administration is pushing that date back.
Speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House, Trump said federal social distancing guidelines will remain in place through April 30, CNBC reported. The president was clear, however, that even that target date remains flexible.
Extending the order
The announcement from Trump came at a regular coronavirus task force press briefing, where the president gave an update on measures being taken to combat the spread of the viral pandemic and thanked the American people for their cooperation and “selfless, inspiring, and valiant efforts.”
“You’re making the difference. The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the presser provided by the White House. “So, I’ll say it again: The peak, the highest point of death rates — remember this — is likely to hit in two weeks.
“Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread,” the president added. “On Tuesday, we will be finalizing these plans and providing a summary of our findings, supporting data, and strategy to the American people.”
According to CNBC, Trump said, “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” but remarked that “he hopes the country will ‘be well on our way to recovery’ by June 1.”
Mitigating the spread
The announcement came hours after Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of Trump’s top advisers on the task force, predicted that the U.S. could see upwards of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, CNBC reported. As of Monday afternoon, a Johns Hopkins University tracker had the country’s current death toll nearing 3,000.
Asked by reporters Sunday if he accepts Fauci’s “assessment,” Trump said in the Rose Garden that he thinks the true number will be “very different.” Still, he called up Fauci to speak on the data.
“The number I gave out is, you know, based on modeling. And I think it’s entirely conceivable that, if we do not mitigate to the extent that we’re trying to do, that you could reach that number,” Fauci clarified, according to the White House’s transcript. “What we’re trying to do is not let that happen. So instead of concentrating on the upper and the lower, we’re saying that we’re trying to push it all the way down.”
Fauci also said that the administration feels “the mitigation that we’re doing right now is having an effect,” according to the transcript.
Taking some flak
For his part, President Trump took some flak from the media after shifting the end date for his social distancing guidelines, but he made clear Sunday that his target of Easter was only “aspirational,” CNBC noted. Moreover, the social distancing guidelines put in place by the federal government merely discourage large gatherings and promote healthy habits like hand-washing; the lockdowns seen across the U.S. are governors’ doings.
In the meantime, the White House is clearly doing all it can to help.