President Donald Trump has said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday.
The president said he plans to resume official travel with a trip to Arizona next week and hopes to hold mass campaign rallies in the coming months with thousands of supporters, even though medical experts have said there is little hope of having a vaccine by then.
Mr Trump also talked up the good news the day provided: hopeful results for a possible Covid-19 treatment.
The White House has been trying to pivot to a new stage of the crisis, focused on efforts to reopen the nation’s economy state-by-state amid concerns that lifting restrictions too quickly without sufficient testing and contact tracing will spur a resurgence.
“We’re heartened that the worst of the pain and suffering is going to be behind us,” Mr Trump said as he led a roundtable with executives from companies like Hilton and Toyota.
The president laid out a vision of a return to pre-coronavirus normalcy — “with or without” a vaccine — with packed restaurants and filled stadiums.
That vision flies in the face of sober assessments from doctors who say the country will need to embrace a “new normal” that includes extended social distancing and mask-wearing.
“I don’t want people to get used to this,” Mr Trump told reporters. “I see the new normal being what it was three months ago.”
To underscore his confidence, the president announced that he plans to resume out-of-state travel after spending more than a month mostly cooped up in the White House.
He said he is planning a trip to Arizona next week, followed by a possible trip to Ohio, even as much of the country remains under effective lockdown with all but essential travel banned.
“We’re going to start to move around and hopefully in the not too distant future, we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other,” he said, adding that having people spaced out in accordance with social distancing guidelines “wouldn’t look too good”.
Mr Trump said the timing would depend, in part, on the states, since some have had far fewer cases than others.
The announcement came after the president said he will not be extending the White House’s “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines when they expire on Thursday.
“They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it,” Mr Trump told reporters.
Those guidelines — which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended an additional 30 — encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants, group gatherings and discretionary travel and advised older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.
Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines have been incorporated into the new guidance issued by the White House earlier this month that lays out how states can gradually ease restrictions and begin to reopen as the rate of new cases slows.
The White House on Wednesday was also pointing to the prospect of an experimental drug, Remdesivir, which proved effective against the virus in a major new study.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said the drug reduced the time it takes patients to recover by 31% — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care.
“It’s highly significant,” Dr Fauci said.
“What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”