Governors, health experts warn coronavirus restrictions must stay in place
Governors and health experts alike warned Sunday that restrictions to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic must stay in place as the disease continues to spread.
Widespread social distancing guidelines and orders can’t be lifted until the number of COVID-19 cases levels off or drops, experts said, also cautioning that more widespread testing is needed to ensure accurate numbers.
“I want to see a flattening and a turning down to the curve. So, if somebody asked me a question, what about New York, should we be pulling back on New York, obviously not,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“New York is doing this. New Orleans is doing this,” he added, gesturing an upward spike with his hands. “When we start to see a daily number of cases, instead of increasing and escalating, they start to flatten out, turn the corner and then start coming down, when we see that, then you could start doing the modification of the intensity of your mitigation.”
The U.S. last week became the country with the greatest number of coronavirus cases in the world, with more than 125,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci said Sunday the U.S. will have “millions of cases” and could have more than 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.
President Trump last week floated the idea of lifting restrictions on some parts of the country by Easter Sunday. The initial 15-day guidelines issued by the White House expire this week and Trump said his coronavirus task force is working to determine what to recommend next.
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said officials can “contemplate lifting some of these measures” after a 14-day sustained reduction in the number of cases.
Gottlieb also said officials must have the ability to conduct widespread testing and screening to determine where the virus is spreading before making any decision on lifting restrictions.
“It’s too early to lift these measures,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“April’s going to be a hard month. Come May we’ll be coming out of this and contemplate starting to lift some of these measures, as we see the epidemic curve come down,” he added.
The modifications will have to be addressed on a regional basis, he added.
Tom Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the social-distancing measures in place in the U.S. haven’t had time yet to fully take effect.
“We’re still at the very beginning of this outbreak,” Inglesby told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “We should expect it to continue for some time and focus on social distancing as one of the main interventions to stop it.”
Governors, who have ordered varying degrees of social distancing measures, for the most part said they agreed with the health experts and warned the restrictions will remain in place and many of them will be extended.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said on “Fox News Sunday” he anticipates the number of cases in his state to go up, and doesn’t see “any way that we’re going to be opening back up in a couple of weeks.”
“I think in two weeks, around Easter, we’re going to be looking a lot more like New York,” Hogan said.
“In spite of the fact that we’ve taken some of the most aggressive steps in the country on social distancing, and we were out front of nearly every state on some of these things, we’ve been taking unprecedented actions every day for the past three weeks, it’s continuing to grow at really kind of frightening paces,” he added. “We think it’s going to be worse in two weeks, not better.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) similarly said the number of cases in her state, especially in Detroit, are rising despite “aggressive measures.”
“Our numbers are climbing exponentially. We knew it was a matter of time, not if, COVID-19 would come to Michigan. We took aggressive measures. We’ve been on the front end of aggressive measures that states have been taking. But we see this astronomical rise. We’ve got hospitals that are already at capacity,” Whitmer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
And Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said he won’t relax guidelines in areas of Washington that have been less affected by the virus.
“We need to make decisions based on science and reality. And there are some hard realities we have to understand. And that is, unless we continue a very vigorous social distancing program in my state, this is going to continue to spread like wildfire to every single corner of my state,” Inslee said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Inslee said it’s “highly probable” the two-week stay at home initiative started in his state a few days ago will be extended.
“And, boy, I would not want to be responsible for opening the door to this virus to ravage our places that seem OK today, but, within 10 weeks, within 10 days, can be at full-scale burning through our hospital system,” Inslee added. “And we have seen this happen. We have got to be ahead of this curve.”
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