Updated 3:41 p.m.
President Trump said on Sunday that federal guidelines urging Americans to social distance to slow the spread of coronavirus will remain in place for another month.
"During this period, it's very important that everyone follow the guidelines," Trump said at a news conference in the Rose Garden. "The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end."
Trump had initially announced 15-day social distancing guidelines and then suggested the recommendations could be relaxed. But on Sunday, Trump said the federal guidelines will ask U.S. residents to socially distance until April 30.
Coronavirus models, Trump noted, suggest that the worst days of the pandemic could hit the country in two weeks.
Trump said the plans to prolong the social distancing guidelines will be formalized Tuesday.
Trump previously suggested he would like to see the country reopen for business on Easter, a notion that deeply unsettled infectious disease experts, who said such a move could exacerbate the crisis.
Asked if his optimistic assessment was a mistake, Trump said no.
"It was just an aspiration," Trump said. "That could be the peak number of deaths before it starts coming down," the president said of coronavirus cases around Easter.
Trump's announcement comes as coronavirus cases in the United States continue to soar and virus-related deaths are mounting, with America's total fatalities doubling in just two days.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that COVID-19, the disease brought on by the novel coronavirus, may claim up to 200,000 American lives.
However, Fauci cautioned people not to put too much emphasis on predictions, noting that, "it's such a moving target, that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people."
Expecting the surge of coronavirus cases to continue, state and local officials are bracing for shortages of medical equipment and supplies.
State leaders — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, the nation's current virus epicenter — are predicting that in the coming weeks critical supplies like ventilators could be far outmatched by the volume of critically ill coronavirus patients.
About 1 in 3 Americans are now under orders to remain indoors in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, said every part of the country should be taking the pandemic seriously.
"No state, no metro area, will be spared," Birx said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the seasonal flu has killed between an estimated 12,000 and 61,000 people a year since 2010.
The novel coronavirus appears to be more contagious than the flu and the death rate is far greater. It could be 10 times deadlier.
There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus. Experts say developing a vaccine for the virus could take at least a year.
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