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President Donald Trump said his administration expects the peak of deaths in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak to be reached in about two weeks, and that he would extend current social distancing guidelines for Americans until April 30.
Trump had previously aimed to return many Americans back to work by Easter Sunday, April 12. He said he now anticipates deaths to crest at that time, and for the outbreak to wind down by June 1, setting the stage for recovery.
“We can reach the bottom of that hill by June 1,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden on Sunday. “That would be a great thing.”
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Vice President Mike Pence said.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier Sunday on CNN that millions of Americans may wind up infected by the virus and as many as 100,000 to 200,000 could die.
Fauci said at the news conference that he and Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising Vice President Mike Pence, had recommended Trump extend his timeline for the U.S. to relax guidelines calling for Americans to distance themselves from one another. He called the decision “wise and prudent.”
Fauci said his estimate of 200,000 deaths is possible if efforts to mitigate the disease fail.
“The number I gave out is, you know, based on modeling,” he said at Sunday’s news conference. “And I think it’s entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate to the extent that we’re trying to do — that you could reach that number. What we’re trying to do is not let that happen.”
Trump said his Easter deadline “was just an aspiration,” and that it would be possible for Covid-19 case and fatality numbers to go down and then “spike up” again if social distancing is relaxed too soon. “We don’t want that to happen,” Trump said.
The president said later in the news conference that he doesn’t expect to relax the federal social distancing guidelines before the end of April, and that Fauci and Birx didn’t support his ambition to relent on the practices in time to fill church pews by the Easter holiday.
“They’re the best in their profession, and they didn’t like the idea,” he said. “We could do it — I don’t think it would be good.”
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