Trump administration calls for avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 02:56 pm

The Trump administration on Monday released new guidelines to combat coronavirus over the next 15 days, calling on Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel or shopping and work from home whenever possible.

The guidelines also call for anyone who is sick or has sick children to contact their medical provider. Those who live in a household in which someone has tested positive should also quarantine in their house.

“When you’re dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think that today reflects where you really are,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infections, said during a White House press briefing.

“It will always seem that the best way to address it is doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction,” Fauci added.

The new guidelines are more stringent than a recommendation from the CDC on Sunday to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers told reporters on Monday he used that figure from the CDC in setting a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in Wisconsin and a requirement for bars and restaurants in the state to limit their capacity.

“We believe it’s (the 50 people rule) reasonable. It’s a reasonable approach. But I think the president’s message isn’t much different than ours, frankly. He is indicating that social distancing is really important, and whether 10 or 50 – that’s his recommendation. But as far as a requirement, we think 50 is a reasonable place to be,” Evers said.

Wisconsin now has 46 active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon and state officials confirmed they believe the state is now experiencing community — as opposed to travel-related — spread of the disease.

The Trump administration guidelines say that bars, restaurants, food courts, and other indoor and outdoor venues where people congregate should be closed in states with evidence of community transmission.

“The consideration here was that, in the context of restaurants – social distancing, which is the strategy by which we are really preventing the spread of COVID-19 – is possible in a restaurant. … So long as customers are six feet apart, so long as we are reducing to 50 the number of total people, or half the capacity of the restaurant, we can employ these social distancing strategies, so that at this point we did not think it was necessary to do an outright (restaurant operating) ban,” DHS secretary-designee Andrea Palm said.

“We will be wanting to see how it goes here,” Palm said. “But obviously we will do what’s necessary to protect the health and safety of the people of this state. But we are hopeful that this is a middle ground, a good first step, to really be clear about what we need to be doing as it relates to social distancing, but allowing some of these establishments, which are small businesses all around this state, not to have to shut down if it is not necessary.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said that as the White House coronavirus task force has studied models of the virus the latest information pointed to the need for continued social distancing and self-quarantining for entire households.

“That stops 100% of the transmission outside of the household,” she said.

Birx also pointed to how the HIV epidemic was solved by actions of community members.

“We’re asking that same sense of community to come together and stand up against this virus,” Birx said. “If everybody in America does what we ask for in over the next 15 days we will see a dramatic difference and we won’t have to worry about the ventilators and we won’t have to worry about the ICU beds.”

Asked how long Americans could be dealing with the virus, Trump suggested it might last until July, August or even longer. Fauci clarified that the new guidelines from the administration are intended to be revisited in 15 days.

“Someday soon hopefully it will end and we’ll be back to where it was,” Trump said. “This came up, it came up so suddenly, we were all surprised.”

Asked if the administration was considering a national quarantine or curfew, Trump said that was not currently under consideration but may be necessary for hotspots of the virus.

“We look forward to the day we can get back normal,” he said.

BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson contributed to this story.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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