By: Robin Foster & EJ Mundell
The White House announced new guidance on Friday that urges all Americans to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As President Donald Trump told the American public about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation during a coronavirus task force briefing, he noted he will not be following it, The New York Times reported.
“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” Trump said. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”
These face coverings can be non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandanas and they can be used while out at everyday shopping spots such as the grocery store, pharmacy or gas station, the Associated Press reported. Medical-grade masks would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.
Any additional COVID-19 prevention measures are welcome, as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide swept past 1 million and the United States saw its death count rise beyond 7,000 on Saturday.
As cases rise across the country, the U.S. economy appeared headed toward a free fall.
On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week.
For the second straight week, jobless claims have been record-setting, with the latest claims bringing the two-week total to 10 million, the Times reported.
Until now, the worst week for unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982, the newspaper reported.
As the troubling numbers kept climbing, state officials across the country said they are running out of face masks, gloves and other protective equipment amid reports that the federal government’s emergency medical supply stockpile is rapidly dwindling, the Washington Post reported.
‘A bad two weeks’ ahead
While Vice President Mike Pence warned that America’s situation is most comparable to Italy’s massive struggle with the virus during a Wednesday media briefing, Trump held out the possibility of potential flight restrictions between hard-hit areas of the United States, the Post reported. However, he noted that it would be difficult to entirely suspend air travel.
“I am looking where flights are going into hot spots,” Trump said during the media briefing.
Such measures may be needed, as the White House coronavirus task force delivered a particularly grim statistic to Americans on Tuesday: The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could climb to 240,000, even with social distancing policies in place.
During a media briefing, Trump warned citizens to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks,” the AP reported.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump said. “This is going to be one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country. We’re going to lose thousands of people.”
Still, public health officials suggested that number could drop if everyone followed national social distancing guidelines to the letter.
“We really believe we can do a lot better than that,” task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said during the Tuesday media briefing.
“There’s no magic bullet,” Birx said. “There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors. Each of our behaviors, translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic.”
The death toll in the United States reached 7,122 on Saturday and it continued to outpace other nations with more than 276,000 confirmed infections, the Times reported.
New York City struggles with cases
New York remains the hardest hit area of the country. More than 2,900 people have died in New York.
On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that his state could run out of breathing machines in six days.
“If a person comes in and needs a ventilator and you don’t have a ventilator, the person dies,” Cuomo said during his daily media briefing. “That’s the blunt equation here. And right now we have a burn rate that would suggest we have about six days in the stockpile.”
Meanwhile, the leaders of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have issued stay-at-home orders for the more than 15.2 million residents of those three states, the Post reported.
While all three jurisdictions had already banned gatherings, closed businesses and schools, and urged people to stay home, the new orders are mandatory and breaking them could include fines and potential jail time.
In the face of rapidly rising coronavirus case numbers and deaths, Trump backed down on plans to re-open the country by Easter — instead extending strict social distancing guidelines for the country to April 30.
(Health Day News)