WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump released guidelines Monday instructing Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The White House’s new guidelines also advise Americans to avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts; going on shopping trips and making social visits; and visiting nursing homes and retirement or long-term care facilities.
“Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus,” Trump said at a White House briefing.
The new guidelines come on the heels of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance Sunday night that recommended the cancellation and postponement of gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. It also comes after the Office of Personnel Management declared federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area open but with maximum flexibility for telework.
The president seem to acknowledge that the spread of the virus had gotten worse than expected and that it could last months. “It’s bad, it’s bad,” the president said.
Trump was joined at the briefing by his key health advisers, Anothony Fauci and Deborah Birx, as well as Vice President Mike Pece, who is leading the administration’s response.
Fauci said that the new guidelines are intended to anticipate what comes next.
“It isn’t an overreaction. It’s an action that’s commensurate with what’s going on in reality” he said.
The White House gave the country a 15-day window to flatten the soaring curve of infection, but some disease modelers see a trajectory that could create a crisis that would start to overwhelm the U.S. health care system in about 10 days.
A growing number of governors earlier Monday followed the lead of fellow executives, announcing closures of bars, restaurants and other venues in states across the country. Trump held separate video teleconferences with G-7 leaders and governors on Monday morning to discuss the response to the coronavirus.
“Went very well,” he tweeted after speaking to governors.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN on Monday morning that the U.S. was “at a critical inflection point,” noting that America now has the same number of cases that Italy had two weeks ago. Italy is now on lockdown as it deals with more than 27,000 cases of the coronavirus, trailing only China, where the outbreak began.
“We have a choice to make: Do we want to really lean into social distancing and mitigation strategies and flatten the curve or do we just want to keep going on with business as usual and end up being Italy?” Adams said.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 4,100 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., though experts expect that number to rise as more testing becomes available. More than 70 people have died.