WASHINGTON: No more 24-hour Walmarts due to panic buying, chaos at airports as Americans flood back into the country and places of comfort such as bars, restaurants and movie theatres may soon be off limits as the coronavirus spreads across the United States.
“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Elderly people and those with underlying conditions need to be especially cautious.
Fauci said he did not see domestic travel restrictions in the immediate future but warned, as he did last week, that the outbreak would get worse before it gets better.
Asked whether he thought US authorities should impose a 14-day lockdown to try to stop the spread of COVID-19, Fauci said: “You know, I would prefer (that) as much as we possibly could. I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticised for over reacting.”
Fauci said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” the idea of closing restaurants in the United States “might be overkill right now, but everything is on the table.” He said he himself would not go to a restaurant.
“If it looks like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing,” Fauci said.
With limited testing available, officials have recorded nearly 3,000 cases and 62 deaths in the United States, up from 58 the previous day.
Donald Trump tested negative for coronavirus, his doctors said on Saturday, as the US president extended a travel ban to Britain and Ireland to try to slow the pandemic.
READ: Trump tests negative for coronavirus, US death toll rises
The US House of Representatives passed an aid package on Saturday that would provide free testing and paid sick leave.
US officials appealed for patience on Sunday as travellers returning to the United States over the weekend were met by long lines and massive delays at major airports so they could be screened for the coronavirus.
Trump said airport checks are “moving as quickly as possible but it is important to be vigilant and careful.
The US containment measures have so far been mild compared to the nationwide lockdowns imposed in Italy, France and Spain. The virus has infected more than 156,000 people in 142 countries, resulting in over, 5,800 deaths.
READ: Italy hit by 368 new coronavirus deaths, hospitals in crisis
READ: Spain reports 2,000 new COVID-19 cases and more than 100 deaths in a day
New Jersey officials were also considering a statewide curfew, Governor Phil Murphy said on Sunday.
Movie ticket sales in North America fell to their the lowest level for more than two decades this weekend, according to measurement firm Comscore.
Democratic New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo called on Trump, a Republican, to mobilise the Army Corps of Engineers to create more hospital beds.
“We have had disagreements about your actions against New York, which we can pursue at another time. Today, let’s work together as Americans. Time is short,” Cuomo wrote on Sunday in an opinion piece in the New York Times.
Cuomo has been criticised for not closing schools as other states have done, given that New York has a large cluster of coronavirus cases.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” programme, Fauci acknowledged that the 13,000 respirators that were in the US stockpile may not be enough if the number of cases in the United States jumped sharply. “What we’re trying to do is make sure they don’t get to the worst-case scenario.”
He said that no hospital system in the world is prepared for a massive increase in coronavirus cases but the United States has taken steps.
“We have a stockpile and we will hopefully be able to backfill and refill that stockpile,” he said. “But I think people should remember, that’s the reason why we want to blunt that curve. If you let the curve get up there, then the entire society is going to be hit.”