Trump: Coronavirus guidance includes avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people

President Trump arrives to speak at a press briefing with the coronavirus task force, in the White House press briefing room on Monday.
President Trump arrives to speak at a press briefing with the coronavirus task force, in the White House press briefing room on Monday.
Evan Vucci/AP

Updated at 4:14 p.m. ET

President Trump announced new coronavirus guidelines Monday, recommending that all Americans avoid groups of more than 10 people, discretionary travel, as well as eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts. He also said schools are recommended to close.

The guidelines are to last for at least 15 days.

At a briefing at the White House, Trump said that with several weeks of action, "we can turn the corner," on the pandemic. Trump also said the government is "prepared to do whatever it takes; whatever it takes, we're doing."

Trump also cautioned it could be awhile before the virus abates. "It seems to me if we do a really good job ... it could be July, August" until the threat of the pandemic diminishes.

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He conceded that the economy "may be" heading into a recession. But, Trump said, "We're not thinking of terms of recession, we're thinking in terms of the virus."

Once the virus abates, he said, "I think you're going to see a tremendous, tremendous surge."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed during the briefing, down nearly 3,000 points.

Trump indicated he was open to changes in the House-passed coronavirus response bill that would make more workers eligible for paid sick leave. The measure, which has not yet been taken up by the Senate, requires companies with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave, leaving out larger employers.

He also said the government would "back the airlines 100 percent," adding, "It's not their fault." An airline industry group Monday requested $25 billion in direct aid and another $25 billion in loans.

The briefing comes as the government rushes to ramp up testing for the virus, starting with health care workers, first responders and people 65 and older with respiratory symptoms and fevers above 99.6 degrees.

Public health officials have said they expect a surge in cases.

States, cities, businesses and organizations have already taken unprecedented actions to keep people from congregating. Many schools are closed. New York City's mayor on Sunday night said bars and restaurants would be limited to takeout and delivery to try to slow the spread of the virus; Maryland's governor made a similar announcement on Monday.

"The worst is yet ahead for us," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a White House briefing on Sunday. "It is how we respond to that challenge that's going to determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be. We have a very, very critical point now."

President Trump had a call about the pandemic on Monday with the leaders of the G-7 nations. In a joint statement released by the White House, they agreed to work together to accelerate and coordinate on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health ministers and finance ministers will have a weekly call to coordinate actions, the leaders said.

Trump also spoke to the nation's governors. Afterward, in a tweet, he singled out New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, for criticism, saying he needs to "do more."

New York is one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus. Cuomo has ordered schools closed in the state, and along with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, ordered casinos, gyms and movie theaters to close.

Concerns over the outbreak also prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to announce that it was postponing oral arguments scheduled March 23-25 and March 30-April 1. Among the cases the court was scheduled to hear was one involving President Trump's financial records.

According to the court's statement, the court has delayed arguments for a public health issue before, noting the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, when it postponed October arguments. Prior to that, the court shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreak.

Late Sunday, the CDC recommended that gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks. This includes conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events and weddings.

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