WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is extending the voluntary national shutdown for a month as sickness and death from the coronavirus pandemic rise in the U.S.
The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. But instead he decided to extend them through April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he'd been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.
Trump's impulse to restore normalcy met a sober reality check Sunday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, who said the U.S. could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic. Trump's decision to extend the guidelines reflected a recognition that the struggle will take place over the longer haul.
The federal guidelines recommend against large group gatherings and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay home. People are urged to work at home when possible and avoid restaurants, bars, non-essential travel and shopping trips.
Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sunday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The extension would leave the federal recommendations in place beyond Easter on April 12, by which time Trump had hoped the country and its economy could start to rev up again. Alarmed public-health officials said Easter was sure to be too soon.
The U.S. had more than 137,000 COVID-19 cases reported by late Sunday afternoon, with more than 2,400 deaths.