Trump extends social distancing guidelines as COVID-19 cases top 140,000
Publish- March 30, 2020, 05:16 PM
Xinhua/UNB - Xinhua/UNB
Update- March 30, 2020, 05:20 PM
Medical workers load oxygen and disinfect surfaces of an ambulance outside a COVID-19 testing side at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York.AP File Photo
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the national social distancing guidelines through April amid warnings that the death toll from COVID-19 in the country might exceed 100,000.
The country's confirmed cases topped 140,000 as of Sunday night, up some 20,000 from the previous day, according to Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering. A total of 2,489 deaths have been recorded.
Trump said that the national social distancing guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus will be extended to April 30.
He had previously expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines by the April 12 Easter holiday in parts of the country less affected by COVID-19. The current 15 days of social distancing imposed by the federal government are set to expire Tuesday.
However, the nationwide rapid increase of COVID-19 infections and a daunting death toll forecast forced him to back off from easing restrictions on economic activities.
The president said "modeling suggests" that the peak of the COVID-19 death rate in the United States "is likely to hit in two weeks," adding that he hopes the country will be on its way to recovery by June 1.
Anthony Fauci, one of the leading health experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned earlier in the day that the country could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths due to the contagious disease.
Fauci, also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the White House briefing that it is "entirely conceivable" that more than 1 million people in the country could be infected with the coronavirus, reiterating that 100,000 deaths are possible.
"The number I gave out is, you know, based on modeling," he told reporters. "What we're trying to do is not to let that happen."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday also extended the state's "PAUSE" directive for two more weeks, which means all non-essential employees will work from home and public gatherings will be banned until April 15.
The announcement came one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Protection issued a 14-day travel advisory for the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut due to extensive community transmission of COVID-19 in the northeastern region.
The travel advisory was issued at the request of Trump and the task force. Trump said Saturday that he had considered a short-term quarantine for the three states but ultimately gave up enforcing it.
In New York City, where over 33,000 cases have been reported, white medical tents have been erected in Central Park's East Meadow lawn as a field hospital.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday the 68-bed emergency field hospital is designed as a respiratory care unit and is expected to open on Tuesday.
As the state with the most urgent need for personal protective equipment, New York has also received donations from companies, organizations and individuals worldwide.
In a thread of tweets on Thursday, the governor thanked a list of over a dozen donors "on behalf of the family of New York," including China's tech giant Huawei.
According to the New York Governor's Office, Huawei has donated 10,000 N95 masks, 20,000 isolation gowns, 50,000 medical goggles and 10,000 gloves to the state.
More medical goods are coming from China. Earlier on Sunday, a commercial aircraft from Shanghai carrying 130,000 N95 masks, 10 million gloves, some 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns and other medical supplies landed at the J.F. Kennedy International Airport, according to media reports.
The flight is the first of 22 scheduled flights that will transport essential medical supplies to the United States from countries including China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, by early April, The New York Times cited a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as saying.