President Donald Trump says his administration is extending their guidelines on social distancing until April 30, after stating the COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. would likely hit a peak in two weeks.
Trump made the announcement in a press conference on the Rose Garden Sunday, as cases top 136,000 in the U.S. The current death toll in the U.S. stands at more than 2,300, with close to half of those fatalities in New York State.
Trump called his earlier comment about reopening the economy by Easter “aspirational.”
The federal guidelines recommend against large group gatherings, promote social distancing, and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay home.
The president spoke Sunday about increasing testing in the U.S., saying the FDA has approved a portable rapid test created by Illinois-based company Abbott Laboratories. The medical device maker says its cartridge-based test delivers results within minutes.
The president promised the increase of testing across the U.S., including the testing of doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers on the front lines.
Trump also announced two health insurers are waiving patient payments for coronavirus treatment. Both Cigna and Humana won’t require many of their customers to make co-payments or other forms of cost sharing for COVID-19 care. Health care providers would be reimbursed at the insurers’ in-network rates or Medicare rates.
Cigna said the waived payments would begin Monday and continue through May 31.
The moves could save those patients thousands of dollars, depending on their coverage and how much health care they’ve used so far this year, for treatment for the coronavirus. They come after Aetna last week announced payment waivers for patients for hospital stays tied to the coronavirus.
Many insurers have previously waived patient costs for testing or doctor visits and telemedicine to encourage people with coronavirus symptoms to get help.
The U.S. government's top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN early Sunday the country could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus and millions of infections from the outbreak. During Sunday evening’s task force update, Fauci double downed on his comment, saying if the U.S. did not mitigate to the extend they are trying to, it is possible deaths could reach 200,000.
Dr. Fauci spoke on the decision to extend the social distancing guidelines until the end of April, calling it a “wise and prudent decision.”
The confirmed global death rate surpassed 30,000 people and new virus epicenters are emerging, including in rural counties in the U.S. with few intensive care units. Spain and Italy alone account for more than half of the world's death toll and are still seeing over 800 deaths a day each.
When asked by a reporter to expand on his earlier statements that more deaths could occur due to the shutdown of the economy than to coronavirus, the president replied, “it’s common sense.” Trump went on to say that prolonged closures and its effects on the economy would lead to “massive” cases of depression, suicides and drug addiction.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
You can watch Sunday's press conference in its entirety below: