In an unexpected move, US President Donald Trump has extended the federal anti-coronavirus guidelines till the end of April after receiving grim projections from doctors about the likely toll of the pandemic.
As the number of confirmed cases in the US reached 139,675 on Sunday evening, Trump announced at the White House that rather than relaxing the rules social distancing at their core, he would continue them.
As they're only guidelines, it's up to the state and native governments to enforce them under the US federal system. They were set to expire on Tuesday.
Trump said that he expected a full recovery by June 1, while cautioning that it might be earlier or sooner counting on how the pandemic is controlled.
The need for social distancing under the rules has resulted in the shutdown of all non-essential parts of the economy plunging the US into a recession, a price it'll need to pay to save lots of lives.
About half the US population is under semi-lockdown referred to as Stay-at-Home orders imposed by 27 of the 50 states.
Trump had earlier discussed relaxing the rules on Easter, which falls on April 12, to restart the economy, but said on Sunday that had only been "aspirational" and now only expected the deaths from COVID-19 to peak around that date.
He said, "Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all."
Earlier, the top White House expert on COVID-19, Anthony Fauci, said on CNN that the US could see a million cases and 100,000 deaths from the disease supported models of how the infection could spread.
Discussing the models projecting the amount of deaths, he said, "Looking at what we're seeing now, you know, i might say between 100 and 200,000. But I do not want to be held thereto ."
Before Trump's announcement of guidelines extension, Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of being in denial and underestimating the gravity of things.
"Don't fiddle while people die, Mr President," she said on CNN.
She said that Trump's denial of the severity of the pandemic at its start "was deadly" and "we cannot still allow him to still make these underestimates of what's actually happening here."
Trump countered these accusations by saying that he imposed restrictions on travellers from China on January 31, and on 26 European countries on March 11, which was extended to 2 more.
Some Democratic Party leaders like former vice-chairman Joe Biden had criticised the travel restrictions.
At his press conference, Trump mentioned worst-case scenario projections of two million deaths if no precautions had been taken and asserted that the actions taken by him had forestalled that eventuality.
Trump spoke of the cooperation with the private sector is ramping up the production of essential medical equipment like ventilators and supplies like masks.
Because of the systematic deindustrialization of the US under previous administrations, the country facing difficulties in meeting its needs during a medical emergency.
He said that the 51 aircraft would be flying in supplies from round the world to satisfy the requirements of the hospital facing dire shortages.
The first plane landed with supplies from China.
With the extension of the rules , the US will need more rounds of economic relief packages, beyond the $2 trillion programme enacted last week with direct payments to people, extension of unemployment benefits, additional medical aid and loans to business.
Both Trump and Pelosi agreed on this.