President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. may be able to get the new coronavirus outbreak under control by July or August at the earliest.
Trump, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, also said his administration may look at lockdowns for "certain areas" or "hot spots" in the nation. But the president said he wasn't considering a full national lockdown. "At this moment, no, we're not," Trump said.
The latest daily briefing came as the number of infections and deaths from the COVID-19 virus continued to rise in the U.S., prompting drastic action at every level of government to try to mitigate its spread.
Asked when the U.S. might expect to turn a corner in its efforts to rein in the virus, Trump said that "If we do a really good job, we'll not only hold the death down to a level that is much lower than the other way, had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that."
Equities plunged as Trump spoke, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down nearly 13%.
The coronavirus task force was originally scheduled to brief reporters Monday morning, but the event was pushed back until after 3 p.m. ET. Trump spoke at roughly the same time in the Rose Garden on Friday, where he was flanked by business leaders who unveiled their own efforts to fight the coronavirus.
Markets rebounded massively during that briefing. But stock futures plunged before Monday's open, hitting so-called limit down levels in multiple major indexes and extending the severe market rout. The backslide came despite the Federal Reserve's decision over the weekend to slash interest rates.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, suggested later in the briefing that Americans, many of whom have seen their lives upended amid the crisis, may be able to make a return toward normalcy before midsummer.
The White House during the briefing put out a new set of guidelines with safety recommendations for Americans to follow. But those "are a 15-day trial guideline," Fauci said. "It isn't that these guidelines are going to be in effect until July."
The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has swept across the globe, infecting at least 180,000 people and killing more than 7,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. There are now more than 4,200 cases of COVID-19 and at least 74 deaths in the U.S. alone, Johns Hopkins' data shows.
Fears about the coronavirus, as well as the international efforts to slow its spread, have crippled multiple industries and threatened to throttle others – such as the restaurant and entertainment sectors.
The potential damage to those industries is expected to worsen as state and city leaders across the nation take unprecedented steps to stifle transmission.
On Monday morning, Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Phil Murphy of New Jersey announced that each of their states agreed to enforce the closing of certain businesses and limit public gatherings to fewer than 50 people.
At the briefing Monday, the White House handed out new guidelines with safety tips for Americans to take that could slow the spread of the virus.
Most of the guidelines revolve around "social distancing" practices that can help prevent transmission of the coronavirus to others.
The elderly, for whom the virus poses a greater threat, are encouraged to "stay home and away from the people," according to the guidelines.
"Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others," the handout says. "It is critical that you do your part to stop the spread of the coronavirus."
The guidelines also advise avoiding social gatherings "in groups of more than 10 people."
The White House briefing room was also outfitted with measures to encourage social distancing. Signs were added to the seats in the usually cramped room to keep reporters at least one seat away from one another.