The White House coronavirus response team has recommended Americans stick to discretionary travel and avoid eating out and gatherings of more than 10 people, as well as homeschool their children, in order to mitigate spreading of the novel coronavirus.
President Donald Trump estimated the virus may “wash through” by July or August, based on the expert opinions he’s received.
The guidelines aren’t mandatory and are to be reevaluated in 15 days, the team announced during a March 16 press briefing at the White House.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the most effective measures to stop the spread of the virus is “social distancing” as well as self-quarantining the whole household when one member is diagnosed with the virus.
Older people and those with underlying medical conditions (such as ailments that impair immunity, lung, or heart function) should stay home and avoid contact with other people, the guidelines say.
Trump said he’s not looking now to impose a nationwide lockdown and “hopefully” domestic travel restrictions won’t be necessary.
The virus first emerged in China in late 2019 and has since spread around the world, with about 4,400 cases confirmed in the United States. As of March 16, 77 have died of the disease, the majority in the state of Washington.
Testing capacity, which has so far been a bottleneck for monitoring the disease, is expected to increase from thousands to tens of thousands per day this week, said Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for Health and head of the Public Health Service.
There is so far no vaccine or “therapeutic” for the infection, Birx said.
“The only thing we have right now is the amazing ingenuity and compassion of the American people,” she said.
Trump noted that testing of a potential vaccine has started and the early results look “promising.”
Birx particularly appealed to millennials to follow the guidelines because they are the largest age segment of the society, tend to be the most socially active, and are most likely to show mild or no symptoms when they contract the virus, which makes them more likely to spread it.
The new guidelines are somewhat stricter that those recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 15, when it recommended either postponing or canceling events of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.
The CDC also created a guideline on how individuals should prepare their households. Among the recommendations, the CDC suggests individuals identify who will be included in their plan, to create an emergency contact list, to plan ways to care for those who are at risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19, and to discuss emergency planning with neighbors.
The CDC also recommends individuals choose a room and bathroom in their household where infected members can be separated from those who are healthy, to prevent transmission of the disease. Sharing of personal items such as food and drink should be avoided, and infected household members should wear disposable protective masks at home.
Overregulation of diagnostic testing has played a major role in delaying the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to experts.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) testing protocol through which it clears tests from labs around the country for use in emergency cases such as outbreaks.
Health experts claimed that in past outbreaks, EUAs were granted very rapidly. However, this time, the red tape made it so complicated that it took weeks to receive the authorization from the FDA, they said.
“The speed of this virus versus the speed of the FDA and the EUA process is mismatched,” Alex Greninger, assistant director of the virology division at the University of Washington Medical Center, told The Atlantic.
Roger Klein, a physician, attorney, and health policy expert, echoed the same concern about red tape.
The FDA got “more assertive” during the Obama administration and tried to get control over clinical laboratory testing, he told The Epoch Times.
The Trump administration has taken the right steps in providing regulatory relief, he said, but there is an ongoing legal debate over whether the FDA should regulate lab-developed tests.
“In my view, the hospital laboratories shouldn’t need to apply for EUAs,” Klein said.
“The FDA needs to step aside and let the hospital laboratories go ahead. These are very skilled professionals who know how to set up lab tests and they need to leave them alone.”
Epoch Times staff members Emel Akan and Isabel van Brugen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.