President Donald Trump extended the voluntary national shutdown for the next month, a stark shift for the commander in chief who days earlier had expressed optimism the country could soon return to normal. On Sunday, Trump said that the federal guidance urging social distancing will remain in place through April 30 after he received stark estimates of the death toll that could result if people went back to their normal lives too early. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” he said.
The original 15-day period for the social distancing guidelines expires Monday and Trump had earlier expressed optimism they could be relaxed in at least parts of the country. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full?” Trump said in an interview. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.” But on Sunday Trump said that his mention of Easter was “aspirational,” noting that around that date should be “the peak number” and by June 1 the country “will be well on our way to recovery.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, praised the decision to extend the guidelines. “We feel that the mitigation that we’re doing right now is having an effect. It’s very difficult to quantitate it because you have two dynamic things going on at the same time,” Fauci said. “You have the virus going up and you have the mitigation trying to push it down but the decision to … extend this mitigation process until the end of end April, I think was a wise and prudent decision.”
Trump also pointed fingers at hospitals, saying they were exaggerating on shortages and going as far as to suggest some may be hoarding or stealing equipment. Specifically, Trump cited New York City hospitals that normally use 10,000 to 20,000 masks and now claim to need as many as 300,000. “Something is going on,” Trump said. “And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000—and we have that in a lot of different places.”