WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump sought to reassure Americans on Monday that guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus but that are hurting the economy will be short-lived. But at the same time, state officials are getting ready for a much longer shutdown of normal operations.
The Trump administration rolled out a 15-day plan on March 16 to “bend the curve” of new coronavirus cases and ease the strain on the health care system. Many health officials have said that two weeks of working from home and social distancing isn't enough time.
"America will again and soon be open for business. Very soon," Trump said at the White House press briefing Monday. "A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting."
Trump himself said at a press conference last week the country could be social distancing through July or August. Though Trump didn't announce a specific date he is considering for lifting the guidelines, he stressed he doesn't want "the cure to be worse than the problem itself."
Meanwhile, governors across the country have implemented stronger restrictions than what the White House has recommended, and on Monday signaled those could last much longer than the initial 15-day plan.
Here is how states further restricted public movement on the same day Trump said it's almost time to get back to normal.
States tighten social distancing restrictions
Maryland and Massachusetts on Monday ordered the closure of nonessential businesses, stopping short of shelter-in-place orders but taking the most drastic actions to date in both states.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he felt the measure was necessary because too many people were ignoring his order to avoid crowds of 10 or more, "literally endangering the lives" of others.
In Indiana on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb also ordered his state's residents to remain in their homes except for certain permitted activities, such as caring for others and ordering supplies.
New York, California and several other states have already imposed stricter social distancing requirements in the form of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. Even if Trump eased the federal guidelines next week it would not affect orders signed by governors in those and other states.
More states postpone, extend primary elections
Rhode Island and Alaska became the latest states on Monday to alter their presidential primary elections over growing concerns of the spread of coronavirus.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that she will sign an executive order to postpone the state's April 28 primary to June 2. She said the state's board of elections had also requested the election would take place "primarily by mail ballot."
Alaska's Democratic Party, which runs its presidential primary, canceled in-person voting scheduled for April 4 and announced it would extend the deadline to mail in a ballot from March 24 to April 10.
“Even in difficult times, we hold our responsibility seriously to allow as many Alaskans as possible the right to have a say in this election," said Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.
Several other states had already announced changes to their elections to quell the potential for community spread of the coronavirus.
Governors stretched school closures
On Monday, Virginia officials announced schools would remain closed through the end of the school year, from an initial closure of just a few weeks.
"School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID19 spreads and protect the capacity of our healthcare system," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said.
North Carolina's governor, Roy Cooper, also extended the close of that state's schools through May 15 on Monday, to respond to what he called a "rapidly evolving health crisis."
"I am committed to ensuring that our students get an education, as much of an education as they can this year, Cooper said.
Kansas was the first state to shutter schools for the rest of the year, and California schools are closed with a likelihood they won't reopen, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Other states have canceled or are considering canceling standardized testing.
Contributing: William Cummings and Joey Garrison