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COVID-19: Trump says postponing US elections "unnecessary", virus pandemic could end in US in July or August

Ohio governor urges Democrats to postpone primary, threatens suit


US President Donald Trump said Monday the coronavirus pandemic could end by July in the United States. 

When asked how long the outbreak might last, Trump said, "So it seems to me that if we do a really good job... people are talking about July, August, something like that."  "So it could be right in that period of time where it, I say, it washes through."

Trump, who said the US "may be" heading into a recession due to the virus, said he was asking Americans to restrict gatherings to groups of fewer than 10 when socializing outside or indoors

US President said postponing elections over the coronavirus crisis is “unnecessary,” even as Ohio’s governor calls for the state’s presidential primary vote scheduled for tomorrow to be delayed.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said, “Postponing elections is not a very good thing,”  “I think postponing is unnecessary.”

Three other states voting Tuesday — Arizona, Florida and Illinois — are scheduled to hold primaries, which select party candidates to contest the presidential election in November, when Trump hopes to win a second term.

Ohio’s governor is going to court to delay Tuesday’s in-person voting in the state’s Democratic presidential primary, casting uncertainty over whether millions of people will be able to cast ballots this week amid mounting concerns over the coronavirus.

“A lawsuit will be filed to postpone the election until June 2, 2020,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said on Twitter. “In the meantime, voters would still be able to request absentee ballots. It will be up to a judge to decide if the election will be postponed.”

DeWine’s announcement came on the eve of presidential primaries in his state as well as Florida, Illinois and Arizona. All three of the other states were moving ahead Monday with plans to hold the primaries Tuesday, while Louisiana and Georgia, had already postponed primaries originally scheduled over the next few weeks. 

Kentucky took steps Monday to postpone its May 19 primary to June 23.

At a news conference Monday in Columbus, DeWine said he was following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against gatherings of more than 50 people.

“We cannot conduct this election tomorrow, this in-person voting, for 13 hours tomorrow,” he said, “and conform to these guidelines.”

Earlier on Monday, President Trump acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in an increasingly urgent bid to slow the virus in the next two weeks before U.S. hospitals are overwhelmed.

According to the President: “We have an invisible enemy,” the president said at a news conference, where he released guidelines that called for people to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people and to steer clear of eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts. “This is a bad one. This is a very bad one.”

The guidelines — including a strict recommendation that anyone with even minor symptoms stay home — are not mandatory. But they were issued with a sense of alarm and a frankness that Trump has not previously displayed.

The president also acknowledged that the crisis — which has already killed thousands around the world and set off a plunge of world markets — could last until July or August and even plunge the nation into a recession. No country, including the United States, has it under control, he said, though he also suggested America could limit its death toll “if we do a really good job” responding now.

“Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus,” Trump said. “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, and we’re going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while some people may perceive the guidelines as inconvenient or going too far, they reflect a deteriorating assessment of the containment efforts and should be taken seriously.

“When you’re dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think that today reflects where you really are. That’s not word speak. It means if you think you’re here,” Fauci said, gesturing to illustrate his point, “you’re really here because you’re only getting the results. Therefore, it will always seem that the best way to address it would be to be doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction. It isn’t an overreaction.”

The White House gave the country a 15-day window to flatten the soaring curve of infection, but some disease modelers see a trajectory that could create a crisis, similar to Italy, that would start to overwhelm the U.S. health care system in about 10 days.

Fauci called the 15 days “a trial” period that for the guidelines to be reconsidered. “It isn’t that these guidelines are now gonna be in effect until July,” he clarified. “What the president was saying is the trajectory of the outbreak may go until then.”

The new guidelines come on the heels of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance Sunday night that recommended the cancellation and postponement of gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. It also comes after the Office of Personnel Management declared federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area open but with maximum flexibility for telework.

Trump held separate video teleconferences with G-7 leaders and governors on Monday morning to discuss the response to the coronavirus.

“Went very well,” he tweeted after speaking to governors.

During the conversation, however, Trump urged governors to try to get respirators, ventilators and other equipment themselves.

“We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves,” the president told them, according to a source in the room. “Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”

The New York Times first reported the president’s remarks to governors.

Trump told reporters that governors would be able to get what they need sooner if they don’t rely on the federal government. Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat, said while “the words did not quite come out right,” the president encouraged states to use whatever supply chains they have access to while the federal government attempts to maintain more respirators and ventilators.

Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force also stressed the important role millennials can play in combating the spread of the virus. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, called that generation “the core group that will stop the virus.”

She said millennials are the most likely group to be the least symptomatic but also the group most likely to be out and about and in social gatherings. That means they could unknowingly spread the virus to more vulnerable older people or those with underlying issues if they ignore guidance and recommendations, but they’re also adept at communicating via text and across social media platforms.

“Public health people like myself don’t always come out with compelling and exciting messages that a 25- to 35-year-old may find interesting and something that they’ll take to heart,” Birx said. “But millennials can speak to one another about how important it is in this moment to protect all of the people.”

Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN on Monday morning that the U.S. was “at a critical inflection point,” noting that America now has the same number of cases that Italy had two weeks ago. Italy is now on lockdown as it deals with more than 27,000 cases of the coronavirus, trailing only China, where the outbreak began.

“We have a choice to make: Do we want to really lean into social distancing and mitigation strategies and flatten the curve or do we just want to keep going on with business as usual and end up being Italy?” Adams said.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 4,100 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., though experts expect that number to rise as more testing becomes available. More than 70 people have died.

 WITH  AFP, POLITICO AND LATIMES

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