TUESDAY, March 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The Trump Administration on Monday ramped up its coronavirus "social distancing" advisory to now discourage gatherings of more than 10 people.
Hours later, about 7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area were ordered to shelter in their homes. Residents were instructed to only leave for "essential" reasons, such as going grocery shopping, going to the bank, using gas stations, and going to pharmacies, CNN reported. By far the strictest social distancing measure in the United States at this point, the order mirrors many of those already in place across Europe.
For now, the federal government only recommends less drastic measures for the rest of the country. In addition to advising against group gatherings of more than 10 people, President Trump also discouraged eating and drinking at restaurants, bars, and food courts and any discretionary travel. The prior advisory had discouraged gatherings of 50 or more people. However, Deborah Birx, M.D., a virologist and coronavirus task force coordinator, explained that newer models of the virus's spread now implicate people who might not even show symptoms as a significant source of "silent" infections.
According to Anthony Fauci, M.D., head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, all Americans need to limit their contact with others to slow the rate of new infections. "The worst is yet ahead for us," Fauci warned, and the crisis could continue into the summer. "It's how we respond [now] to that challenge that will determine what the ultimate end point is going to be."
There was some encouraging news on the supply of COVID-19 infection testing kits. Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., who is leading the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services in coordinating COVID-19 testing, said that a rollout of test kits has entered "a new phase," as commercial labs with highly efficient, automated systems ramp up their services. Giroir said 1 million tests are now available, 2 million more should be ready during the next week, and 5 million more are expected to be ready a week later.