Trump administration won’t extend coronavirus social distancing guidelines into May


The federal guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 will not be extended beyond the end-of-April target set in mid-March, with President Donald Trump telling reporters Wednesday that he backed the efforts of governors as they begin a phased reopening of the economy.

“They’ll be fading out,” Trump said of the guidelines, which included minimizing unnecessary travel, encouraging sick and vulnerable people to stay home and strict social distancing such as avoiding groups of 10 or more and keeping 6 feet away from others in public.

“Now the governors are doing it,” added the president, speaking with reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We’ve spoken with many, many governors. They’re explaining what they’re doing. I’m very much in favor of what they’re doing. They’re getting it going. They’re opening the country again.”

Vice President Mike Pence said that “Frankly, every state in America has embraced those guidelines at a minimum. Now, our focus is working with states as governors unveil plans to open.”

The Trump administration released a roadmap earlier this month encouraging states to relax stay-at-home orders and business closures in phases. Hitting benchmarks, such as 14 days of declines in new COVID-19 cases and expanding health care facility capacities to handle flare ups of the virus, are essential to move through the phases, public health officials said.

“If there are embers, we’ll put them out,” Trump said.

Some states will be able to open up sooner than others, with hotspots like New York and Massachusetts keeping protective measures in place for now.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker extended the state’s stay-at-home advisory until May 18, two weeks longer than initially scheduled. Non-essential business closures and the ban on gatherings above 10 people are also extended until May 18, Baker said.

The Trump administration issued the social distancing guidelines in mid-March after the president had previously barred travel from China, where the virus originated, and Europe.

At the time, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, of the White House coronavirus task force headed by Pence, showed Trump epidemiological models indicating that without widespread social distancing measures, the virus, which is 10 times more lethal than the flu, could kill more than 1 million Americans.

The disease has killed more than 60,000 in less than two months and infected more than 1 million Americans, far more than any other country.

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