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Trump extends US social distancing guidelines as coronavirus outbreak worsens

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Donald Trump, Anthony Fauci
Donald Trump, Anthony Fauci   -   Copyright  Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
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President Donald Trump extended the United States’ recommendations on social distancing on Sunday as the death toll due to the coronavirus outbreak increased.

The US currently has more cases of coronavirus than any other country in the world with more than 140,000 confirmed as testing has ramped up in the last few weeks. More than 2,400 people have died in the country of 330 million.

The federal guidelines encourage Americans to work or school at home if possible and to practice proper respiratory hygiene until April 30.

Meanwhile, more than half of US states have issued orders for Americans to stay at home.

Many Americans have bemoaned confusing messaging from the federal government on the outbreak.

Trump said just last week that he hoped the US would reopen by Easter on April 12. He said on Sunday that he thought the US would be on the other side of the epidemic curve by June 1, at which point he anticipates "great things".

The extended guidelines came as the country’s top expert on infectious diseases Dr Anthony Fauci, who has quickly become a household name in America, told CNN that the virus could potentially kill between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the United States.

He added a significant caveat about how it's difficult to model the future effects of a virus:

“We're going to have millions of cases, but I just don't think that we really need to make a projection when it's such a moving target that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people," Dr Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union as he explained that modelling often looked at the worst case scenarios.

Ultimately, Fauci said, the virus will make its own "timeline".

The US is ramping up testing after a slow start and recently passed a stimulus package of $2.2 trillion to help the economy and healthcare system during the outbreak.

A complicated situation in the nation’s epicentre

New York has become the epicentre of the US crisis with just under 60,000 cases confirmed in the state according to Andrew Cuomo, the state’s governor.

Cuomo said officials expect New York City, where there are over 30,000 cases to reach the peak of the epidemic before other areas of New York state.

The city has turned the large convention centre, the Javits Center, into a temporary hospital for overflow coronavirus patients. They’ve also send up field hospital tents in Central Park.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
A 68 bed emergency field hospital specially equipped with a respiratory unit in New York's Central ParkAP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Many New Yorkers are fleeing the largest city in the country to head to second residences. It's creating fear that they may further spread the virus to other areas of the country, though cases have currently popped up in all 50 states.

Over the weekend, Trump caused a furore after suggesting on Twitter that he would order an enforced quarantine for New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, something upon which the governors of those states cast doubt.

“I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable,” said Gov. Cuomo at a press conference on Saturday.

In an update on the situation, Cuomo spoke to New Yorkers about the data of those in hospital for COVID 19.

People are staying on ventilators for “longer and longer” the New York governor said, explaining that the longer people stay on the ventilator, the less their chance of getting off of it.

But, Cuomo added, the number of people being discharged from the hospital has also increased.