President Donald Trump’s top public health advisers are signaling that the prospect of widely relaxing social-distancing measures at the end of the month is dim, despite signs that coronavirus infections and deaths may be plateauing in some of the hardest-hit American cities.

Trump has been anxious to relax economy-crushing guidance that Americans isolate themselves from one another, and data indicate that distancing efforts are having an impact on the outbreak, halving the projected death totals in some models. That has turned attention within the White House to planning for an economic reopening.

But top officals have spent the past 24 hours cautioning that “the light at the end of the tunnel” -- as Trump has described it -- may be farther than it appears. On Friday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that while some areas relatively untouched by the outbreak might be able to consider reopening by the end of the month, that’s not the case for most of the nation.

“As we ramp up testing and can feel more confident that these places actually can do surveillance and can do public health follow-up, some places will be able to think about opening on May 1st,” Adams said in an interview with Fox News. “Most of the country will not, to be honest with you.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, also preached caution when asked about a potential May 1 opening. The virus will determine “whether or not it’s going to be appropriate to open or not,” he said Friday in an interview with CNN.

“We would want to see, I would want to see a clear indication that you are very, very clearly and strongly going in the right direction, because the one thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to get out there, prematurely, and then wind up and you’re back in the same situation,” Fauci said.

Political Liability
White House officials may be particularly cautious about committing to a specific date after Trump initially set a goal to “reopen” the country by Easter, April 12. But as the U.S. outbreak grew last month to the largest in the world, he agreed to extend CDC guidance on social distancing until April 30.

Trump this week said Americans “have to be careful” about a return to work, even as he reiterated his desire to get businesses open again. He noted that his call for an Easter reopening had proved a political liability.

“Easter is a very important day. So, aspirationally, I said, ‘Let’s see if we can do it at Easter,’” Trump said. “But I said it would be very tough and I was criticized for that so I don’t like giving dates and that wasn’t a date.”

While U.S. officials began the week optimistic that the outbreak was beginning to level off, New York City on Thursday reported 824 deaths from the virus in 24 hours, the most yet. Members of Trump’s coronavirus task force has said they are closely monitoring cities including Philadelphia, Denver, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Washington D.C. for potential spikes.

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