Trump, White House Task Force Stress "Critical" 15-Day Coronavirus Guidelines

Donald Trump, joined by members of the Coronavirus Task Force - March 17, 2020- Getty-H 2020
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

"Our experts have told our task force that if every American acts on the advice of the coronavirus guidelines, we could see a substantial reduction to the spread," adds Pence.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday stressed his message for Americans to follow the 15-day guidelines that went into effect on Monday and predicted that "if we do this right" the coronavirus-hit economy will bounce back and the country can be "rolling again" amid the global pandemic.

"If we do this right, our country can be rolling again pretty quickly," said Trump during his daily address with the White House coronavirus task force. "We have to fight that invisible enemy. I guess, unknown — but we're getting to know it a lot better."

He continued of the "pent-up" economic activity, "The best thing we can do is get rid of the virus. Once that's gone, it's going to pop back like nobody's ever seen before, that's my opinion.... I think our economy will come back really rapidly. One day we'll be standing possibly up here, we'll say, 'Well, we won.' Sure as you're sitting here, we're going to say that. We're going to win."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, referred to the guidelines as "critical" and "empowering" on Tuesday. "You can look at them as guidelines, you can look at them as requirements and you can look at them as the president asking every American in every state to follow those," she said. "That's why we put them out at the federal level — we wanted to make sure every American knew what they could do today to change the course of this epidemic."

In addition to reiterating the biggest points from the 15-day guidelines — avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, engage in working and schooling from home, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating out — Trump and his staff delivered updates ranging from projections about the economy to the hospital supply shortage and testing availability.

Vice President Mike Pence said testing is now available in all 50 states, with remote testing sites expanding around the country. "It's important the American people understand that testing is happening all over the country. But all of our health experts wanted me to tell the American people: you don't need the results of testing to know what you should do," said Pence.

"We continue to urge every American over the next 15 days to put into practice the principles in the president's coronavirus guidelines. By every American practicing these principles, we believe we can slow the spread of the coronavirus," he continued. "In fact, our experts have told our task force that if every American acts on the advice of the coronavirus guidelines, we could see a substantial reduction to the spread of the coronavirus. It will take all of us to do it."

For American people as a whole, the risk of serious illness remains low. But Pence encouraged all Americans to be mindful of the higher-risk population of senior citizens. Trump announced a dramatic expansion of medicare tele-health services through no additional cost and encouraged everyone to maximize the use of tele-health to better maintain hospital capacity. "We will get through this and we will get through this together," said Pence, adding that he has met with leaders from the country's broadcast networks about unveiling a public service campaign using CDC guidelines.

As to the supply shortage, Pence said he and Trump are speaking to department of defense officials Tuesday about the need for excess supplies and the supply chain problems for hospitals, including procuring more respirators and ventilators. They urged construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 masks to local hospitals and forgo additional orders.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin encouraged Americans to file their taxes on time, but said any American has the right to extend. If Americans owe a payment to the IRS, they can defer up to $1 million as an individual and $10 million for corporations, interest free and penalty free for 90 days. 

"This is worse than 9/11" for the airline industry, said Mnuchin, who added that they plan to continue to offer support to small business and that "one of the ideas we like" is sending Americans $1,000 checks. "We want to make sure Americans get money in their pockets quickly. We have an entire [stimulus] package, we'll be laying out those details later today."

Trump also called New York the "number one hotspot" in the country, but added that he had a productive conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about next steps.

The president praised the "self-policing" he has seen for Americans who are not following the new guidelines and reiterated for everyone to "enjoy your living rooms" during this time. 

"We're going to see a hump instead of a peak," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, while injecting some positivity. "What I'm being impressed by is that this is really a comprehensive [approach] that has multiple components to it. All of them got to succeed if we're going to get to that endpoint that I've described multiple times from this podium. So I hope that if everyone does their job, we're going to be able to give you a number and say, 'We've seen that inflection and we're coming down.' I would hesitate to do it now, because it might be misleading and I don't want to be misleading."

He then added of the mitigation component: "We can't do this without the young people cooperating — please cooperate with us."

When asked about New York Gov. Cuomo's prediction that his state's infection peak is 45 days out, Fauci said, "Forty-five days is not unreasonable. You have to be careful when you get a number, you own the number. And if the number doesn't come out, you're in trouble. And that's the reason why, from our standpoint, from the federal government, we're talking about a range."

He also cautioned: "It probably would be several weeks and maybe longer before we know whether we're having an effect. I wouldn't put us to task every few days — that would be really misleading if we do that."