Trump says coronavirus crisis could last until July or August

Coronavirus
Donald Trump, Mike Pence

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, behind, arrives to speak during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington (CBS) — President Trump said the coronavirus outbreak could last into the summer, perhaps as long as August, an indication that the widespread nationwide slowdown in response to the virus is just beginning. Mr. Trump also didn’t rule out further quarantines, or curfews in the future, as he rolled out new guidelines for everyday American life. 

“They think August, it could be July,” he said, referring to members of the White House task force. “Could be longer than that. But I’ve asked that question many, many times.”

The president issued new guidelines for how the country can slow the spread of the virus, suggesting bars and restaurants close in states with evidence of community transition and calling on governors to close schools in areas with evidence of community transmission.

The guidelines do say Americans should “avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts” and to instead use “drive-thru, pickup or delivery options.” The government also says Americans should avoid groups larger than 10 people, and call on Americans to work from home and school children at home whenever possible, and avoid discretionary travel. 

“We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it, and that’s what we are,” President Trump said Monday as he announced the guidelines in a thinned-out White House briefing room. 

“I’m glad to see that you’re practicing social distancing,” the president told reporters in the briefing room, adding it looks very “nice.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified these guidelines are for 15 days, not through July or August.

“I think the question that, maybe John asked, ‘until July’ — the guidelines are a 15-day trial guideline to be reconsidering. It isn’t that these guidelines are going to be in effect until July,” said Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official. “What the president was saying was that the trajectory of the outbreak may go until then. Make sure that we don’t think that these are solid in stone until July.”

But the new presidential guidelines stop short of urging all restaurants and bars or all schools to close, as an increasing number of governors and mayors are doing. The governors in Ohio and Illinois, for instance, have ordered all bars and restaurants to shutter. 

The new guidance, which had been promised by Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday night, also calls for basic things that the administration has been stressing all along, such as washing hands and avoiding touching your face.

In announcing the guidance, Dr. Deborah Birx, a leading member of the vice president’s Coronavirus Task Force, said the millennial generation will be key in stopping the spread of this virus, as millenials know how to communicate digitally and will generally be able to pull through the virus if infected but can easily transmit it to others.

“They are the core group that will stop this virus,” Birx said.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration still can’t say how many Americans have been tested for the virus, or how many tests have been administered.

“There is a number. I don’t have that number,” Admiral Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary at HHS, said from the briefing podium. 

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