In a March 16 afternoon press briefing from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Donald Trump acknowledged that the virus is not under control. To help stop the spread, the task force has issued 15-day guidelines for all Americans to follow to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
The president asked all Americans “young and old” to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, discretionary travel and eating and drinking in bars, restaurants and food courts. Trump also announced that phase one of vaccine testing started today and that “we are racing to develop antiviral treatments.”
“We had an invisible enemy a month ago no one thought about … this is a bad one. It’s so contagious,” said the president of the pandemic.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, urged citizens to take the 15-day guidelines (find them at www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/coronavirus-guidelines-america/) seriously, stating, “The guidelines will only work if we take them to heart.” She appealed to those diagnosed with the virus to stay home and keep their entire household at home to stop virus spread. Birx called out the millennial generation as a “core group that will stop this virus.” She called on them to hold their gatherings to under 10 people. She also urged citizens to help protect the most vulnerable individuals in their households.
The guidelines were “well thought out,” said Dr. Antony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adding that “they will fail if we don’t adhere to them.”
Acknowledging the fear among the public, the president said the federal government is working closely with governors and mayors across the country, referencing a conference call with all governors earlier today. “I think the U.S. government is doing everything we can do,” he added.
While Trump noted that the trajectory of the outbreak could last until July or August, Fauci emphasized that the guidelines are for 15 days.
Birx stressed that if “everyone does what we’re recommending for 15 days,” it will slow the virus spread.
Amid a stock market drop of approximately 3,000 points at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Trump answered many questions from the press ranging on topics from the economy to national lockdown to the airline industry. Following are some key highlights:
Will there be a lockdown across the country? “We are not looking at a national lockdown,” Trump said, adding that it could be adopted in “certain areas” and noting that “we hope we don’t have to look at domestic travel restrictions.”
What about the economy? “We could be heading toward a recession,” he stated, but added that he felt the economy would rebound when the virus threat is abated. “The best thing I can do for the stock market is to get through this crisis,” Trump said.
Is there help for the airline industry? “We’re going to back the airlines 100%,” the president said. “We will be in a position to help the airlines… it’s not their fault.”
What about testing? “If your doctor says you don’t have symptoms, don’t get the test,” advised the president. Dr. Brett Girior, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, stated that ”thousands of people” are expected to be tested this week.
Will the border with Canada be closed? The president stated that the government has decided not to close the border with Canada at this time.
Will primary elections be held Tuesday, March 17? “It’s a big thing to postpone an election,” Trump said, adding that he is leaving the decision to individual states. “I think postponing them is unnecessary.”
Wrapping up the briefing, Vice President Mike Pence stressed that the 15-day guidelines are the “best opportunity we have to lower the infection rate over the course of the entire virus. We are calling on every American to do your part.”
In other virus-related news, the U.S. Supreme Court, which was set to begin sessions Monday, March 23, has postponed arguments scheduled for March and early April due to the pandemic.