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US extends coronavirus guidelines, Olympics set new date: Monday’s coronavirus news

Here’s what you need to know today.

President Trump speaks to reporters on March 28, 2020 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

The country will not be open by Easter, President Donald Trump conceded on Sunday, as the White House extended its coronavirus social distancing guidelines until at least the end of April.

The decision came as the coronavirus statistics from the United States are increasingly grim: More than 140,00 cases nationwide and more than 2,500 deaths as of March 29. New York state alone has recorded more than 59,500 cases and more than 1,000 deaths as of March 29.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease specialist, said over the weekend that the US could see more than 100,000 deaths during the course of the pandemic. That seems to have gotten Trump’s attention.

“If we can hold that down, as we’re saying to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between [100,000] and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job,” the president said at a press conference Sunday.

And while April 30 might still be an ambitious end date to the coronavirus crisis, there’s at least something to look forward to next year: The new date for the Tokyo Olympics is now July 23, 2021.

Here’s what you need to know today.

Trump extends social distancing guidelines through April 30

What began as “15 days to slow the spread” of coronavirus is now more than a month. On Sunday, President Trump said the federal government would extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30. Those guidelines recommend that Americans avoid nonessential travel and shopping trips; work from home when possible; stay home when sick; and stay away from bars, restaurants, and public gatherings of 10 or more people.

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all,” Trump said at the Sunday press conference. “The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end. Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread.”

This is an about-face from Trump’s position last week, when the president expressed concerns about the economy being shut down for a prolonged period of time. He’d suggested that he wanted the country open by Easter, with “packed churches.” But on Sunday, Trump admitted that coronavirus deaths in the United States would likely peak in two weeks.

Trump’s move is the right one, as public health experts say loosening up restrictions prematurely could lead to more deaths — and would still significantly damage the economy anyway. That hasn’t stopped Trump from feuding with New York over vital supplies, or bragging about the ratings his coronavirus briefings are getting.

But at least he’s committing to a much clearer timeline on how long Americans must practice social distancing, to protect themselves and others.

Fauci predicts tens of thousands of coronavirus deaths

The United States now leads the world in reported coronavirus cases, and the death toll continues to rise. It is now well past 2,000, doubling in just two days. And the worst is yet to come.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, says between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans may die from the coronavirus before the pandemic ends. The number of positive cases is likely to reach in the millions.

Fauci qualified this by saying all of these numbers are based on projections, which are always tough to model. “To make a projections when it’s such a moving target, you can so easily be wrong and mislead people,” Fauci said on CNN’s State of the Union. “What we do know ... is we have a serious problem in New York. We have a serious problem in New Orleans, and we’re going to be developing serious problems in other areas.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, also said on NBC’s Meet the Press that “no metro area” would be spared from the outbreak.

Fauci and Birx’s messaging was a sober contrast to some of Trump’s rhetoric from last week about the need to reopen the economy — though, again, he has since extended those social distancing guidelines and looks to be deferring to his experts.

But the bottom line is this: The coronavirus crisis is far from over in the US.

Tokyo Olympics have a new start date

Less than a week after the Tokyo Olympics were finally postponed, the organizers have announced a new official start date: Monday, July 23, 2021. They’ll wrap up on August 8, followed by the Paralympics, which will take place from August 24 until September 5. Though the dates have been changed, the branding — the XXXII Olympiad — is staying the same.

The Tokyo Olympics’ new start date: July 23, 2021.
Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said in a statement.

This one-year postponement seemed the mostly likely scenario, given the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic. Athletes under quarantine have been unable to train, and many qualifying competitions had already been postponed or canceled. This new window will ideally allow for both to happen — though it’s still not clear the coronavirus outbreak will be under control in a year’s time.

And some good news

Health care and other essential workers — doctors, nurses, physician assistants, technicians, grocery store workers, delivery people, you name it — are on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis. Around the world, people have tried to show their appreciation for these workers by staging rounds of applause for them.

New York City did the same Friday night, with quarantined New Yorkers cheering and clapping from their balconies. It’s a few days old, but it’s pretty neat — and on Monday, we could all use a little pick-me-up.

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