A chorus of support to urge Americans to stay indoors is gathering more calls, with several more US governors ordering millions of people to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Governors in at least 18 states accounting for nearly half the US population issued directives for social distancing measures, which require residents to avoid crowds, and go out only for necessary trips.
Public health authorities have pushed for the restrictions to curb widespread transmission of the coronavirus, COVID-19, which has infected more than 42,600 people in the United States, and killed at least 559 as of early Tuesday morning.
The growing calls for the stay-at-home restrictions came as US President Donald Trump signaled he’s considering a move in the opposite direction.
Trump said, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself”, as restriction further stifled the US economy and raised fears of a recession in the presidential election year.
The US president announced that he wanted to lift the restrictive coronavirus measures sooner than it has been previously suggested, saying, "America will again and soon be open for business, very soon, a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting, a lot sooner."
"If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s shut down the entire world," Trump said.
The state of Washington, which accounts for over a quarter of the deaths, became the latest state to issue “stay at home” orders.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said, “This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. So it’s time to hunker down to win this fight.”
While Trump’s latest remarks showed his concern about the economic fallout, state and local officials continued to warn about the collapse of the healthcare delivery system.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday his state needs 50,000 additional hospital beds to accommodate a surge in coronavirus patients.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed for ventilators, masks and other medical equipment, even asking for help from private citizens.
New York state is now at the epicenter of the US outbreak with 157 deaths.
The governors of New York, New Jersey and Illinois said a lack of coordinated federal action was causing chaos for states and municipalities, and even putting them in competition with each other for medical resources.
The coronavirus pandemic has virtually paralyzed sectors of the US economy, with many companies shuttering workplaces.
A $2 trillion economic stimulus bill stalled in the US Senate on Monday after Democrats said it contained too little money for hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.
A failure to agree on the economic relief package could have a devastating effect on states, cities and businesses, and trigger further heavy losses in US stock markets.
Wall Street’s slide deepened on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling 3.04% to end at 18,591.93 points. The S&P 500, a broader-market index, lost 2.93% to 2,237.4. The S&P 500 is now down about 34% from its February record high, Reuters said.
US joins calls for postponement of Tokyo Olympics
The United States called for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said it had listened to feedback from athletes and was encouraged by a clearer path towards postponement.
"Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can't be overcome in a satisfactory manner," the USOPC said on Monday.
Japan's government is negotiating with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Summer Games by up to a year, in what would be a first in the Olympics' 124-year modern history.
Canada and Australia have already said they will not be sending teams to Tokyo if the Games go ahead as scheduled this year.
Britain and New Zealand Olympic organizers also came out in support of a delay.