Coronavirus: White House looking into whether social distancing can be relaxed after April

Louise Hall
Good Morning America

The White House has began to investigate whether or not some social distancing measures might be able to be relaxed in some states by the end of April.

Dr Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House response to the coronavirus, said officials are looking at areas across the country where social-distancing measures have been successful.

In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Dr Birx was asked if it was realistic to think that the guidelines could actually be relaxed by 1 May, or if the restrictions would continue.

“We’re doing a series of clear investigations of what happened in Washington and LA, and what does that mean and how you keep the number of cases down,” Dr Birx replied.

At the end of March, President Donald Trump was forced to extend emergency measures to counteract the spread of the disease until the end of April, despite originally suggesting that businesses would be able to re-open by Easter.

New daily updated scientific data suggest that the coronavirus pandemic will peak in the US on 12 April, with 2,221 people predicted to die in one day at its height.

The data, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), projected that the first wave of the epidemic would likely end in early June, but only if social-distancing measures continue to be observed.

“If social distancing measures are relaxed or not implemented, the US will see greater death tolls, the death peak will be later, the burden on hospitals will be much greater, and the economic costs will continue to grow,” Dr Christopher Murray, Director of IHME at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, said.

Dr Birx also detailed in the interview that the government was hoping to roll out an antibody test within the next 10 to 14 days.

On Monday, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) spokesperson told Politico that the agency has begun carrying out retrospective testing to evaluate how many people have been infected with the virus.

The blood tests analyse antibodies in a person’s blood to detect if they have been exposed to the coronavirus, however, some governments have expressed concern that some of the antibody tests may not be reliable.

The Food and Drug Administration granted its first emergency use authorisation of an antibody blood test on Wednesday stating that the potential benefits of utilising the test outweigh the risks.

Widespread testing will allow the CDC to determine how far the virus has spread across the US and can help the government determine if some people in society can return to employment.

“This makes a big difference in really understanding who can go back to work and how they can go back to work, so all of those pieces need to come together over the next couple of weeks,” Dr Birx said.

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