CHICAGO (AP) - The CDC recommends that meetings of 50 or more people in the US be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks due to a coronavirus pandemic.
Officials across the country limit many elements of American life to combat the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, with governors closing restaurants, bars and schools and a government expert saying a 14-day national closure might be needed.
The closure took place when the country sank deeper into chaos due to the crisis. Travelers returning from trips abroad are stuck in queues for hours at major airports for film screenings, causing them to be crammed into the type of crowded spaces that public health officials have urged to avoid.
In a sign of impending economic gloom on the horizon, the Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate to near zero. President Donald Trump tried to calm the restless country by declaring that the government had "extraordinary control" over the situation and urged people to stop the panic of buying staples that had thinned shop shelves across the country. Weapons shops began to see similar attacks on weapons and ammunition when panic increased.
Some parts of the country already look like ghost towns, and others will follow when the theme parks are closed, Florida beaches drive out spring breakers, Starbucks says they will only accept drive-thru and takeout orders and the governors of Ohio and Illinois order bars and restaurants closed down. The governor of California asked state bars and restaurants to do the same, but did not order it. New York City, New Jersey and other places are considering similar steps.
"The time for persuasion and public appeals is over," said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. "This is no joke. Nobody is immune to this. "
His decision was taken a few hours after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government's top infectious disease expert, said he wanted to see a 14-day national outage put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
"I think Americans should be prepared that they should squat significantly more than we as countries do," said Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of coronavirus. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
There is no indication Trump is considering the move.
The worldwide epidemic has made more than 162,000 people sick and killed more than 6,000, with thousands of new cases confirmed every day. The death toll in the United States rose to 64, while infections passed 3,200.
Meanwhile, strong condemnations rained down on Trump and his administration on Sunday from state and local officials over a long queue of international passengers returning at several US airports that could turn them into corona virus carriers when they tried to return home.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot condemned the government for letting around 3,000 Americans returning from Europe stall for hours in the customs area at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday, violating federal recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people practice "keep away social ". "
Passengers, many of whom rushed home fearing they would be trapped in Europe, were screened for coronavirus symptoms before they were allowed to leave the airport.
Long lines were also formed Saturday in Boston, Dallas and others from 13 airports that received flights back from Europe.
"People are forced into conditions that conflict with CDC guidelines and are totally unacceptable," Lightfoot said.
Elizabeth Pulvermacher, a University of Wisconsin student, arrived Saturday at O'Hare from Madrid, where she studied and spent hours. The customs process made him feel "insecure," he said.
"The whole idea is to get rid of the spread of the corona virus, but there are hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short distance," said Pulvermacher.
Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University, said he was "surprised" by what he saw on Saturday at nearby O'Hare.
"If they had not been exposed to COVID-19 before, they might now. From a public health perspective, this is malpractice," Murphy said in a statement on Sunday. "Lack of preparation and unexpected concern."
But the situation improved on Sunday at O'Hare and elsewhere. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said the waiting time dropped to 30 minutes after the process had been adjusted to better handle entry and additional personnel were sent to airports that "channeled" traffic.