With the number of patients testing positive for coronavirus increasing grimly in the United States, President Donald Trump on March 29 further extended the voluntary national shutdown for a month.
The lockdown extension has been announced considering the coronavirus pandemic claiming over 100,000 lives in the US, particularly in New York City. The decision is most needed in the States , although in the eleventh hour.
Number of cases soars in States
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 and the risk of deaths spiraling into the hundreds of thousands is real.
"I want our life back again," the president told reporters in the Rose Garden.
Death toll increases
Trump, who has largely avoided talk of potential death and infection rates, cited projection models that said potentially 2.2 million people or more could have died had the country not put social distancing measures in place. And he said the country would be doing well if it "can hold" the number of deaths "down to 100,000."
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.
The extension would leave the federal recommendations in place beyond Easter, 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 139,000 COVID-19 cases reported by Sunday evening, with more than 2,400 deaths. During the course of the Rose Garden briefing, reported deaths grew by several dozen and the number of cases by several thousand.
Senior citizens most prone
Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients and some are short of critical supplies.
Fauci's prediction would take the death toll well past that of the average seasonal flu. Trump repeatedly cited the flu's comparatively much higher cost in lives in playing down the severity of this pandemic.
Trump had eyed a "reopening" of the U.S. economy by Easter, but in recent days medical professionals warned that would be far too soon for the nation's heavily affected urban areas.
Health-care systems also under threat
Meanwhile, governors in other hotspots across the country were raising alarm that the spread of the virus was threatening their health-care systems.
"We remain on a trajectory, really, to overwhelm our capacity to deliver health care," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on ABC's "This Week." "By the end of the first week in April, we think the first real issue is going to be ventilators. And we think it's about the fourth or fifth of April before, down in the New Orleans area, we're unable to put people on ventilators who need them. And then several days later, we will be out of beds."
He said officials have orders out for more than 12,000 ventilators through the national stockpile and private vendors, but so far have only been able to get 192.