WASHINGTON (CN) — Acknowledging finally that U.S. hospital beds and respirators will be in short supply across the country as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to rise, President Donald Trump urged Americans to stay at home for at least the next 15 days.
Speaking about the pandemic this afternoon with members of the White House task force, Trump responded to a reporter’s question that it could be July or August before life returns to normal in the U.S.
Clarifying the president’s statement, Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, later added that the guidelines represent a 15-day trial that could be extended.
“It isn’t that these guidelines are now going to be in effect until July,” Fauci said. “What the president was saying was that the trajectory of the outbreak may go until then. Make sure we don’t think these are solid, in stone until July.”
“Yeah, that would be the outside number,” Trump added.
The new guidelines Trump announced Monday call for Americans to to avoid groups of more than 10 people, stay home when possible, and rethink eating out or traveling.
“If everyone makes this change, or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation, and we will defeat the virus, and we’re going to have a big celebration all together,” Trump said.
There is no nationwide order to close all bars and restaurants, but Trump said it could still happen.
“Right now we don’t have an order, one way or another,” the president said about dining out in restaurants. “We don’t have an order, but I think it’s probably better that you don’t especially in certain areas.”
Trump, as recently as last week, has claimed that America’s COVID-19 outbreak is under control, but he finally conceded Monday that this is not the case. There is no plan, however, to issue a nationwide curfew.
“There are some places in our nation that are not very affected at all,” Trump said. “We may look at certain areas, certain hotspots, as they call them — we’ll be looking at that. But at this point no we’re not.”
Striking a starkly different tone from last week, the president also acknowledged reports of the expected shortage in hospital beds and respirators if Americans seek treatment all at once because of the failure to stop the spread.
“We have quite a few, but it may not be enough, and if it’s not enough we will have it by the time we need it,” Trump said. “Hopefully we won’t need that.”
One reporter asked how many respirators are currently available in the U.S. “I could get back to you with that number,” Trump said in reply. “We have ordered a lot. We have quite a few but it may not be enough. And if it’s not enough, we will have it by the time we need it. Hopefully we won’t need them.”
States across the country are rapidly issuing new guidelines for everyday life in the outbreak era. California effected a shelter-in-home order across six-counties Monday, while Pennsylvania ordered all bars and restaurants to close their doors to patrons starting at midnight.
Municipal officials have openly criticized Trump’s response to the spread of the virus with confirmed cases in 49 states. Amid models showing that the volume of new cases could overwhelm hospitals, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says Trump should deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary patient-housing facilities.
The president said of the demand that the White House task force is “looking into it very strongly.” Meantime, when it comes to respirators, Trump said state officials are free to take swifter action.
“If they can get them directly it’s always going to be faster,” Trump said, confirming reports that he has ordered governors to stock up on their own on respirators and masks. “I have given them authorization to order directly,” Trump said.
Rating his performance during the outbreak a 10, Trump said he thinks he has done a great job implementing COVID-19 testing procedures.
“We had a system that was not meant for this,” he said. “It was a smaller system. It was meant for a much different purpose, and for that purpose it was fine. But not for this purpose. So we broke down the system, and now we have something that is going to be and is very special.”
Deborah Birx, an allergist-immunologist tapped as coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, stressed the importance of social distancing.
“If you are sick, no matter who you are,” said Birx at the press conference, the responsible course of action is to stay home.