Updated Mar 16, 2020 - Health

White House urges public to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people

The White House's coronavirus task force announced tougher guidelines on Monday to help slow the spread of the disease, including limiting social gatherings of more than 10 people.

Why it matters: The tougher guidelines, which will be in place for at least a 15-day period, come as the number of reported cases in the U.S. has surpassed 4,000. President Trump said the changes to everyday life as a result of the crisis could be the "new normal" in the U.S. until July or August.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, recommended the following measures during a press briefing on Monday:

  • If someone within your household is infected with the virus, everyone else within the home should also self-quarantine.
  • Avoid nonessential travel.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in bars and public food courts.

More highlights:

  • During the briefing, Trump said he does not currently plan to announce a national quarantine, but that restrictions could apply to certain coronavirus hotspots.
  • Trump conceded that the U.S. may be headed for a recession, but struck a new tone in emphasizing the public health impacts of the pandemic: "We're not thinking in terms of recession, we're thinking in terms of the virus," calling it an "invisible enemy."
  • Amid increasing pressure on the airline industry, Trump said the administration will "back the airlines 100%." He did not offer specifics on how they will do that.
  • Trump signaled that he's open to changes to the House coronavirus package that he previously endorsed. He said Senate Republicans "may make" the House bill "even better," adding that there may be further negotiations.
  • In one rare moment, Trump acknowledged that he thinks "a lot of the media has been very fair [during coverage of the virus]. I think people are pulling together on this."
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the task force, said people infected with the virus should not rely on how they are feeling to determine when it is safe to leave the home.
  • Fauci said people must have two negative cultures taken 24 hours apart to ensure they are healthy again.

The state of play: The stock markets, which closed during the briefing, had their worst day since 1987.

  • The S&P 500 closed more than 11% lower on Monday, while the Dow fell 13% (or 2,999 points).
  • Asked about the steep drop, Trump said: "The market will take care of itself."

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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