USA states ramp up drive to slow spread of coronavirus

U.S. President Trump gives a press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Washington
Reporters peer into the window from outside as U.S. President Donald Trump is accompanied by members of the coronavirus task force as he addresses a news briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The White House, under pressure to escalate national action to combat the coronavirus, urged Americans on Wednesday to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and called for closing bars, restaurants and other venues in states where local virus transmission exists.

Trump refrained from ordering sweeping public quarantines, lockdowns or curfews for the time being, even as some state and local authorities independently imposed mandatory restrictions on eateries, movie theaters and other places of leisure in a bid to contain the respiratory virus.

“We’re recommending things,” Trump told a White House news conference in issuing new coronavirus guidelines. “We haven’t gone to that step yet” of ordering a lockdown. “That could happen, but we haven’t gone there yet.”

Trump also said he felt that postponements of primary elections, like those announced in Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana and Kentucky, were generally unnecessary.

The number of known coronavirus infections and deaths in the United States has paled in comparison with hot spots of the global pandemic, such as China, Italy or Iran. But the tally of confirmed U.S. cases has multiplied quickly over the past few weeks, surpassing 4,600 and prompting fears American hospitals might soon be overwhelmed, as Italian medical centers have been strained to the breaking point.

At least 83 people in the United States had died of the virus, as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University and public health agencies, with the hardest-hit state, Washington, accounting for the bulk of the fatalities, including six more announced on Monday.

Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said health officials were relying on members of the millennial generation – those in their 20s to 40s, and representing the largest living adult cohort – to alter their social behavior for the good of the public.

Millennials, she said, are “the ones that are out and about, and they’re the most likely to be in social gatherings, and they’re the most likely to be the least symptomatic” even if they are unwittingly infected and contagious, Birx told the briefing.

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