The Trump administration's coronavirus task force on Monday issued new guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and discussed ongoing efforts to increase the availability of testing and medical supplies.
President Donald Trump told governors during a conference call earlier in the day that they shouldn't wait for the federal government to provide them with medical equipment like respirators if they can source them on their own, which surprised some governors, The New York Times reported.
He tried to clarify his remarks during an afternoon news conference, saying that governors should take advantage of their existing supply chains to obtain respirators, masks, ventilators and other medical equipment necessary to care for patients infected with COVID-19 rather than go through "the longer process of the federal government." However, the federal government will continue to increase its stockpile of necessary supplies and equipment and provide them to states where possible.
"It's always going to be faster if they can get them directly," he said.
Vice President Mike Pence also celebrated the inclusion of liability protection for N95 mask producers in the coronavirus package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives over the weekend.
Suppliers like 3M and Honeywell are worried that they would be vulnerable to lawsuits if healthcare workers contract coronavirus while wearing N95 masks intended for industrial uses like mining and construction. Waiving legal liability could increase the number of masks available by millions because most N95 masks are of the industrial variety, so they're not FDA-approved for clinical use.
COVID-19 tests should become more widely available during the coming weeks with at least 2 million expected next week and 5 million the week after, HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. Brett Giroir said.
The task force also issued new guidelines that aim to reduce the spread of the virus during the next 15 days.
People should avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more; abstain from discretionary travel; educate their children at home if possible; and stop eating and drinking in public spaces such as bars, restaurants and food courts, according to new guidelines.
"If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus," Trump said. "With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly."
The guidelines also recommend that states close bars, restaurants, gyms and other public spaces if they're experiencing community spread. States including Illinois, Ohio, New York and Maryland and major cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco have already asked bars and restaurants to close as soon as tonight.
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