Just how long will the unprecedented restrictions on daily life amid the coronavirus outbreak last?
That is the question everyone is asking after California imposed sweeping stay-at-home orders that closed all nonessential businesses and limited trips from home to basic needs such as getting food or medical care or taking walks.
Experts and political leaders have said they don’t know how long social distancing will be required, but they note it’s the best shot at slowing the spread of the virus and helping hospitals, which are expected to be overwhelmed by patients.
In the wake of the new restrictions, the economy has taken a beating, prompting calls from some, including President Trump, for the closures to end as soon as possible.
Trump on Tuesday said he expected that the federal government could lift restrictions within three weeks, but public health experts say to expect social distancing to last one to three months.
Here is what key figures and institutions are saying:
Trump said during a Fox News event at the White House that he hoped to end federal restrictions on daily life by Easter, April 12. Referencing the end of the 15-day period following the initial restrictions, which comes next week, Trump suggested that guidelines would remain in effect “a little bit longer than that.”
“I’d love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom
California’s stay-at-home order does not have an expiration date.
When asked about the state’s criteria to determine when to call off the order, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the state needed to expand community surveillance testing across the state to determine how many people might be infected with the virus and whether the government’s approach to stop the spread was working.
“When we bend the curve and we see that we’re getting our arms around this,” the governor said, “that people are practicing social distancing in a very dynamic way, when we have the kind of community surveillance, that I referenced we’ve done in three parts of the state, but we do that throughout the state of California, then we will be able to answer that question.”
Newsom said he didn’t have an end date in mind.
“I’ve been very honest with you about the school system,” Newsom said. “I’ve been very honest about my expectation of what we are going to be challenged with over the course of the next eight weeks as we prepare. And, trust me, as soon as I have more clarity on all of that, I will share it with you, as is my obligation.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci
The nation’s infectious diseases czar told the “Today” show last week that social distancing could last weeks.
“If you look at the trajectory of the curves of outbreaks and other areas, [it’s] at least going to be several weeks,” he said. “I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now, it’s going to be over. I don’t think there’s a chance of that. I think it’s going to be several weeks.”
Newsom last week said he thought schools would remain closed through the end of the academic term.
But some school districts are not ready to go that far. The Los Angeles Unified School District on Monday said it would be closed until at least May 1, resuming before the end of the school year.
By staying closed until May, the nation’s second-largest school system is aligned closely with a recommendation from Debra Duardo, head of the L.A. County Education Office, which provides oversight for local school systems. There appears to be broad compliance with Duardo’s timetable among the county’s 80 districts. About 1.5 million students are enrolled in Los Angeles Unified and county public school districts.
Los Angeles’ ‘safe-at-home’ regulations
Both Los Angeles County and city have imposed sweeping restrictions, closing nonessential businesses, banning public gatherings and, more recently, closing beach parking lots, hiking trails and recreation areas. Violations of either the city or county order can be enforced as a misdemeanor and punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Those orders list April 19 as the end date for the rules. But officials have said they could be extended.