Because of the frightening current predictions in the United States about the new coronavirus, President Donald Trump has been forced to extend the guidelines for social distancing, in spite of his controversial wish to reopen the country soon.
Only a week ago, the president generated considerable controversy when he said he wanted to reopen the U.S. economy by April 12 at a time when many experts are indicating that the best measure against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is social distancing or social isolation.
The Republican incumbent, with his eye on the economic impact of the current health emergency, has even said that the United States was not built to be shut down, and that an economic crisis could lead to thousands of suicides.
In spite of his position, and amid criticism from governors, members of Congress and medical experts, the president yesterday announced that federal guidelines on social distancing, initially planned to end this week, would be extended through this month.
This means that everyone in the United States is supposed avoid groups of 10 or more people and avoid discretionary travel. The guidelines also say people should consider canceling all social visits in their homes. Meanwhile, the guidelines say that older adults should remain at home.
According to Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the country’s leading expert in this field, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has been pressuring President Trump to extend the distancing guidelines.
“We felt that if we prematurely pulled back, we would only form an acceleration, or a rebound of something, which would have put you behind where you were before,” Fauci said this Monday on CNN.
According to Fauci, the decision is in response to the fact that the disease is not slowing down, hospitalizations have been increasing in cities such as New York and New Orleans and the outbreak has not shown any signs of leveling off.
“When you look at the kinetics of the outbreak, the patterns that are going on now, even as we speak, they were not going to reach a peak and turnaround the way we wanted to, within the time frame originally estimated,” he said.
Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said they showed these models to the president on Sunday in the Oval Office.
“He looked at them, he understood them, and he shook his head and said, ‘I guess we got to do it,'” Fauci said.
The renowned specialist added that it would not surprise him if the number of deaths in the country from COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-Cov-2, reaches 100,000. Some 144,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported, and more than 2,500 deaths.
Birx cited equally alarming numbers on NBC. She said that even if things are done well, deaths could reach as high as 100,000 to 200,000.
According to Birx, worst-case scenario projections indicate that there would be 1.6 million to 2.2 million deaths if measures are not taken and the guidelines for social distancing are not followed.
In the middle of this situation, a Navy ship with 1,000 hospital beds, the USNS Comfort, arrived Monday in the port of New York, the area hardest hit by the pandemic, to treat patients suffering from diseases other than COVID-19 and to help relieve the pressure on local health care facilities.
Data from Johns Hopkins University show that the country’s most populous city has more than 33,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is approaching 800 deaths.
In the face of this complex scenario, which has hit the United States and the world in the very year Trump is seeking reelection, the president’s desire to return to normalcy as soon as possible appears to be far from being realized.
Even before he agreed to extend the time period for the federal distancing guidelines, governors in more than 25 states issued orders for residents to stay at home and adopted other measures that are stricter than those set by the president.
For a while, the news media and analysts believed that the president was downplaying the pandemic and turning a blind eye to the reality of the situation.
An opinion piece on CNN about extending the social distancing guidelines suggested that it was the work of the scientists and the advice of the experts that seemed to have caused a positive change in Trump’s thinking.
Various sources indicate clearly that from now on, the president should be able to adjust to the data and the facts, and distance himself from comments and rushed economic revitalization measures that could shore up support from his base, but would not save lives.
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