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Trump extends social distancing guidelines to April 30, predicts ‘great things’ by June 1



President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he’s extending his administration’s guidelines on social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30.

Trump said last week that he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.

Trump said Friday that he would consult with his administration’s top medical experts on whether to extend or change the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

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But on Sunday, Trump said that the Easter target date was “just an aspiration” and that he expects “great things to be happening” by June 1. Instead, Trump said he believes Easter will mark “the peak number, and it should start coming down, hopefully very substantially at that point.”

Trump said his administration felt Easter “was too soon” and “we can’t take a chance.”

Instead, Trump said he felt June 1 would mark “the bottom of the hill.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said the choice to extend the guidelines had not been made lightly.

“We know it’s a huge sacrifice for everyone,” she said, adding that more detailed guidance will be released Tuesday.

Earlier Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN”s “State of the Union” that he anticipates that the coronavirus could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans while infecting “millions” of others, although he said the outbreak is difficult to model, as it is “such a moving target.”

At the briefing later Sunday, Fauci said, “The reason the president made the announcement today about going to the end of April is because we want to make sure that we don’t prematurely think we’re doing so great.”

He added, “We may be, but we want to push it to the extreme.”

Trump said his administration was extending the guidelines with hope of avoiding a catastrophic death toll.

“So if we can hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job,” Trump said.

Asked whether he had considered easing guidelines in states that have not been hit as hard yet, Trump said he, Fauci and Birx were not fans of the idea.

“They said, ‘We don’t like that idea,'” Trump said. “They didn’t like the idea. We could do it, but I don’t think it will be good.”

Much of the nation is shuttered to contain the spread of the disease, which first appeared in China late last year. As of Sunday evening, about 140,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., the highest total of any nation, with more than 2,400 deaths, according to NBC News’ tracker.

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Biden debuts podcast in his virtual campaign for president



WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic.

The podcast “Here’s the Deal” is intended to provide listeners “a voice of clarity during uncertain times” by delving into pressing subjects affecting Americans’ day-to-day lives in conversations between Biden and “national top experts,” according to a description of the podcast shown to NBC News.

“Hey, Team Biden. It’s Joe, and I’m sitting in Wilmington, Delaware,” Biden says at the top of the debut podcast. “It’s a scary time, people are confused, things are changing every day, every hour so I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could.”

The title plays on one of Biden’s favorite phrases he uses before launching into an explanation about a subject he wants people to understand.

In the 20-minute episode recorded last Tuesday, Biden interviews his former chief of staff, Ron Klain, who also served as the Obama administration’s Ebola czar, on how President Donald Trump should be handling the pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S.

Both take turns talking about the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola crisis before Biden brings up his coronavirus and economic plans.

“It’s critical for the president not to resort to fear-mongering and also baseless downplaying or lying about the situation,” Biden said during the phone interview. “The president needs to be honest, needs to follow the science, needs to be transparent with the American people.”

Listeners asked Biden and Klain questions about the initial plans they put into action during the Ebola crisis and asked Biden what he is doing to practice social distancing.

“First, I’m recording this podcast to connect with all of you instead of traveling across the country as I have been doing most of the last year,” he said. “It’s just not worth it to go out there and take a chance of getting sick and further spreading the virus.”

The podcast is another way for the campaign to try to connect with voters confined to their homes a challenge recent political candidates have not had to face. The launch comes one week after Biden debuted his home TV studio in his basement, where he was able to reinsert himself into the national conversation on cable news following several technical difficulties encountered in his first week of “working from home.”

The campaign said it plans to upload episodes regularly and to expand the conversations beyond the pandemic, although staffers acknowledge the topic will be revisited often as the nation continues to grapple with its life-altering effects.

In the past week, the campaign has held a number of virtual events, including question-and-answer sessions with workers helping patients recover from COVID-19, and a “happy hour” with young adults. It also launched a newsletter that will be emailed to supporters, featuring Biden’s recommendations on how to prevent coronavirus spread and movies to watch as they stay at home.

The podcast also allows the campaign to remind listeners what Biden is doing to stay on top of the crisis as he battles for national news coverage that has turned away from the presidential campaign to focus on the coronavirus.

“I think it’s important for people to know that you’re talking to almost, every day, top economists about what to do about this,” Klain told Biden on the podcast. “You’re talking to Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill and making the point that it’s important that as we fight this economic crisis, we focus on people and families, not corporations.”

“Bingo,” Biden responds.

Besides trying to provide “clarity” on important issues, the podcast promises to bring “the heart, compassion and wisdom” of Biden to Americans as the campaign contrasts President Donald Trump’s crisis-management leadership to that of the former vice president.

“Why am I doing this?,” Biden asks listeners. “So we can keep talking to each other. We can’t hold rallies anymore, but we’re not gathering in big public spaces. We’re living in the new normal, but I want you to know that I’m with you and I’m on your side and we’re going to get through this together as a country.”

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‘I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew’



WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he wouldn’t mind running against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for president, adding that he thought Cuomo would make a better candidate than former Vice President Joe Biden.

In an interview on Fox News, Trump was asked to react to speculation that Cuomo would be a better candidate for the Democrats.

“If he’s going to run, that’s fine,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew. I’ve known Andrew for a long time. I wouldn’t mind that but I’ll be honest, I think he’d be a better candidate than sleepy Joe.”

The president added, “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew; I don’t mind running against Joe Biden.”

“I think probably Andrew would be better,” Trump continued. “I’m telling you right now, you know, I want somebody [for] this country that’s gonna do a great job, and I hope I’m going to win.”

Cuomo, of course, is not running for president and the race for the Democratic nomination is now down to just Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Speaking at his daily coronavirus press conference later Monday, Cuomo dismissed rumors he is considering jumping into the race.

“I am not engaging the president in politics,” he said. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership. This is no time for politics.”

“I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge,” Cuomo added. “I’m not running for president, I was never running for president. I said from day one I wasn’t running for president. I’m not running for president now. I’m not playing politics.”

Some have suggested that Cuomo should have launched a White House bid because they say he’s handling the coronavirus crisis well in New York. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about it over the weekend and said she asked Cuomo if the current situation has revived his dreams of a presidential run.

“No. I know presidential politics. I was there in the White House with Clinton. I was there with Gore. No, I’m at peace with who I am and what I’m doing,” Cuomo told Dowd.

Dowd wrote that Cuomo’s friends said the New York governor will be loyal to Biden. But they said if Trump is re-elected, Cuomo could run for president in 2024.

As for the approval of the job Cuomo is doing, Trump took some credit, saying Monday that the governor is doing well because of the federal government, which has dispatched a hospital ship and ventilators to the state.

“One of the reasons he’s successful is because we’ve helped make him successful now,” Trump said.

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