In his most serious remarks yet about the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to stay away from various public places.
He said the new guidelines apply to everyone, “including the young and healthy,” for the next 15 days. His tone was very different from it has been at previous news conferences, when he has downplayed the threat of the virus.
“We’ve made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now,” Trump said. “We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it, and that’s what we are.”
Trump said people should participate in school from home if possible, avoid discretionary travel, and stop going out to bars and restaurants.
While answering reporters’ questions after his initial address, Trump contradicted himself and said these guidelines could be in place until July or August. However, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stepped in to clarify that these guidelines are only in place for 15 days.
Trump brushed off criticism that the US has been too slow in responding to the crisis, saying, “We have a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about.” The US confirmed its first coronavirus case, in Washington state, nearly two months ago.
He also commended his administration for focusing on controlling the spread via border control, calling various travel bans “very good early decisions.” When asked how he’d rate his response to the virus, he gave himself a 10 out of 10, much like he did after a hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017.
But the US is still only conducting a small fraction of the number of coronavirus tests that other countries are doing ― a comparison that appeared to peeve Trump.
“I noticed a lot of people are talking about South Korea because they’ve done a good job on one side,” he said, an apparent reference to the country’s high volume of testing. “But on the other side, tremendous problems at the beginning.”