NEW DETAILS: President Trump extends guidelines through April 30

Caption
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has been called the "rare source of frank honesty" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier Sunday, Fauci predicted 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in US

President Donald Trump said the peak in the coronavirus death rate “likely will hit in two weeks,” and he is extending the stay-at-home guidelines through April 30.

The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires Monday, and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. But instead he decided to extend them through April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he’d been too optimistic. Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings.

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At the coronavirus task force news briefing Sunday night at the White House, the president said more details about the federal social distancing and mitigation guidelines will be released Tuesday night.

Trump also said Abbott Labs will begin providing 50,000 tests each day for the coronavirus. The president said the tests, which he said have been approved by the FDA, will provide results in about five minutes.

Trump also thanked the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA for constructing 2,900 hospital beds at the Javits Center in New York. The president said the project was completed in fewer than four days. He said other hospitals are planned in Louisiana, New Jersey and other states.

The president also said he is “working on” getting FDA approval for a system that sterilizes masks up to 20 times because health care workers say they have reused masks amid the pandemic, according to reporter Yamiche Alcindor.

Trump also said reporters should “look into” where hospital masks in New York are going. He suggested some might be “going out the back door” during the crisis, according to reporter Steve Herman.

Earlier Sunday, the government’s foremost infectious disease expert said the country could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” offered his prognosis as the federal government weighs rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been as hard-hit by the outbreak at the conclusion of the nationwide 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said, correcting himself to say he meant deaths. “We're going to have millions of cases.” But he added , “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.”

Trump, who has largely avoided talk of potential death and infection rates, cited projection models that said potentially 2.2 million or more could have died had the country not put social distancing measures in place. And he said the country would be doing well if it “can hold” the number of deaths “down to 100,000.”

“It's a horrible number,” Trump said, but added: “We all together have done a very good job.”

Brought forward by Trump at the outdoor briefing Sunday evening, Fauci said his projection of a potential 100,000 to 200,000 deaths is “entirely conceivable” if not enough is done to mitigate the crisis. He said that helped shape the extension of the guidelines, “a wise and prudent decision.”

About 125,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. had been recorded as of Sunday morning, with about 2,200 dead. It is certain that many more have the disease but their cases have not been reported.

One in three Americans remain under state or local government orders to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus, with schools and businesses closed and public life upended.

Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, said parts of the country with few cases so far must prepare for what is to come. “No state, no metro area, will be spared,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Fauci said he would only support the rollback in lesser-impacted areas if more testing is in place to monitor those areas. He said “it’s a little iffy there” now.

Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients, and some are short of critical supplies.

Trump had eyed a “reopening” of the U.S. economy by Easter, April 12, but in recent days medical professionals have warned that would be far too soon for the nation’s heavily affected urban areas.

On Saturday, Trump was discussing tightening restrictions, suggesting then backing away from an “enforceable” quarantine of hard-hit New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Instead, the White House task force recommended a travel advisory for residents of those states to limit non-essential travel to slow the spread of the virus to other parts of the U.S.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that Trump shouldn’t be so quick to reverse the social distancing guidelines, saying more testing needs to be in place to determine whether areas currently showing fewer infections are truly at lower risk.

Trump’s “denial” in the crisis was “deadly,” she told CNN.

“As the president fiddles, people are dying, and we have to take every precaution,” she said. She promised a congressional investigation once the pandemic is over to determine whether Trump heeded advice from scientific experts and to answer the question that resonates through U.S. political scandals: “What did he know and when did he know it?”

Trump played down the severity of the pandemic for weeks. Asked whether she is saying that attitude cost American lives, Pelosi said: “Yes, I am. I’m saying that.”

It put Pelosi out of lockstep with former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, who said he wouldn’t go so far as to lay the blame for deaths on the president. “I think that’s a little too harsh,” he told NBC.

Biden faulted Trump for holding back on using his full powers under the recently invoked Defense Production Act to spur the manufacture of the full range of needed medical supplies — and for making erratic statements about the pandemic.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, governors in other hotspots across the country were raising alarm that the spread of the virus was threatening their health care systems.

“We remain on a trajectory, really, to overwhelm our capacity to deliver health care,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on ABC’s “This Week.” “By the end of the first week in April, we think the first real issue is going to be ventilators. And we think it’s about the fourth or fifth of April before, down in the New Orleans area, we’re unable to put people on ventilators who need them. And then several days later, we will be out of beds.”

He said officials have orders out for more than 12,000 ventilators through the national stockpile and private vendors, but so far have only been able to get 192.

Around the world, doctors were forced to make tough choices about which patients to save with their limited breathing machines, and Spain and Italy demanded more European help as they fight still-surging coronavirus infections in the continent’s worst crisis since World War II.

The confirmed global death toll surpassed 31,000, and new virus epicenters emerged in U.S. cities including Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago. Even rural America has not been immune, as virus hotspots erupt in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.

Spain and Italy alone account for more than half of the world’s death toll, and are still seeing more than 800 deaths a day each.

Experts say, however, that virus toll numbers across the world are being seriously underrepresented because of limited testing and political decisions about which bodies to count. Unlike the U.S., France and Italy do not count deaths that take place at home or in nursing homes, even though nursing homes are known coronavirus incubators around the world.

“Europe must demonstrate that it is able to respond to this historic call,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said late Saturday. “I will fight until the last drop of sweat, until the last gram of energy, to obtain a strong, vigorous, cohesive European response.”

A woman walks in falling snow Saturday in Tokyo. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has repeatedly asked the city’s 13 million residents to stay home this weekend, saying the capital is on the brink of an explosion in virus infections.
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A woman walks in falling snow Saturday in Tokyo. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has repeatedly asked the city’s 13 million residents to stay home this weekend, saying the capital is on the brink of an explosion in virus infections.

Credit: Eugene Hoshiko

Credit: Eugene Hoshiko

Trump backtracked on a threat to quarantine New York and neighboring states amid criticism and questions about the legality of such a move. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory urging all residents of New York City and others in New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut to avoid all nonessential travel for 14 days.

Shocking as that is for Americans, that stopped short of the restrictions imposed in Europe or elsewhere. Parisians are fined if they try to leave the city, South Africans can't even buy liquor, and Serbians are upset about a ban on walking their dog. In Italy, burials are being held with only one family member.

»MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany

Spain moved to tighten its lockdown and ban all nonessential work Sunday as it hit another daily record of 838 dead. The country's overall official toll was more than 6,500.

Spain’s health emergencies chief, Fernando Simón, said the country’s infection rate fell Sunday to 9%, down from 18% three days before. But he said the number of people in intensive care units keeps rising and hospitals are at their limits in several regions.

A priest and relatives pray as a victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus is buried by undertakers at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid.
Caption
A priest and relatives pray as a victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus is buried by undertakers at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid.

Credit: Olmo Calvo

Credit: Olmo Calvo

“That is why we have to strictly apply the control measures,” he said.

The crisis is pummeling world economies and putting huge strains on national health care systems. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for a more vigorous response from the 27-nation European Union.

“It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation, and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge,” he said.

Spain, Italy, France and six other EU members have asked the union to share the burden by issuing European debt, dubbed coronabonds, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from Germany and the Netherlands.

European countries have also resisted sharing masks with their neighbors for fear that they, too, will need them in mass quantities soon. Many countries have turned to China, where the outbreak is easing, flying in cargo planes to get protective medical equipment.

The daughter and husband, center left, no names available, of an elderly victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus stand as undertakers place the coffin in the grave at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid.
Caption
The daughter and husband, center left, no names available, of an elderly victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus stand as undertakers place the coffin in the grave at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid.

Credit: Olmo Calvo

Credit: Olmo Calvo

These tensions have raised new fears about whether the EU will survive this crisis.

“It’s really, really important that we achieve better coordination,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

Worldwide infections surpassed 680,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The United States leads the world with about 125,000 reported cases, but five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.

Egypt shut its beaches as cases in the Mideast surpassed 50,000. Police in the Philippines stepped up arrests of quarantine violators, and more tourists were evacuated from Mount Everest and the Indonesian island of Bali.

Poland is considering delaying its May 10 presidential election, and Russia ordered borders to close Monday. A prominent French politician with the virus died, France’s first death of a senior official.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has the virus himself, warned: “Things will get worse before they get better.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.

More than 145,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

Pope Francis called Sunday for a cease-fire in all conflicts around the globe “to focus together on the true fight of our lives.” He also urged authorities to take special care of those in nursing homes, military barracks and jails.

In Detroit, which has a large low-income population, the death toll rose to 31 with about 1,400 infections in a rate that shocked health officials.

“This is off the charts,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center. “We are seeing a lot of patients that are presenting to us with severe disease, rather than minor disease.”

Some U.S. states began to try to limit exposure from visitors from harder-hit areas. Rhode Island National Guard troops were going door to door in coastal communities to find New Yorkers. Florida is setting up checkpoints to screen visitors from Louisiana.

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As others tightened controls, China eased more restrictions, following the ruling Communist Party’s declaration of victory against the coronavirus. Airline flights from Hubei province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak resumed Sunday. Subway and bus service resumed Saturday in the province’s hard-hit capital of Wuhan.

Rich Barak of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.