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Trump's guideline extension was just his latest reversal in recent days

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 29, 2020.Al Drago / Reuters

WASHINGTON — After floating the idea that the federal government’s social-distancing guidelines could come to an end in the next two weeks, President Trump reversed course on Sunday, extending them through the whole month of April.

We apologize, this video has expired.

It became the latest reversal/walk-back/about-face from the president in just the last three days regarding the coronavirus pandemic.


Wednesday, March 24

"I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter [April 12]," Trump said in a Fox News interview. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full?”

Sunday, March 29

“Peak in death rates is likely to hit in two weeks. Therefore, in the next two weeks, it's very important that everyone follow the guidelines,” the president said. “Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30th to slow the spread."

Saturday, March 28 — around noon

“I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing ‘hot spots’, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly,” Trump tweeted this past Saturday around noon.

Saturday, March 28 — seven hours later

“A quarantine will not be necessary. Full details will be released by CDC tonight. Thank you!” he tweeted seven hours later, saying instead that he was issuing a travel advisory for those three states.

Thursday, March 26

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’” Trump said on Fox News.

Friday, March 27

“General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford” Trump tweeted the very next day.

Facts change. So do situations on the ground. And on CNN this morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that Trump listened to his scientists’ advice about the consequences — and resulting death toll — if the social-distancing guidelines were not extended.

“We showed him the data. He looked at the data, and he got it right away. It was a pretty clear picture,” Fauci said.

But the picture from the president himself — especially over the last three days — has been anything but clear.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

142,801: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 56,833 more than Friday morning.)

2,472: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,204 more than Friday morning).

About 852,000: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project. (That’s about 312,000 more than Friday morning.)

100,000 to 200,000: That’s how many people in the United States may be killed by the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated on Sunday.

77 percent: That’s the share of confirmed coronavirus cases as of Friday in counties that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

Probably another two weeks: That’s when data modeling from the physicians on the White House coronavirus task force now estimates that the U.S. death rate will peak

Two ways to look at the recent general-election polling

There are two ways to look at the latest general-election numbers between President Trump and likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Way #1: With his approval rating inching up in the past couple of weeks, Trump is closing the gap with Biden (the president trails Biden by 2 points among registered voters in the WaPo/ABC poll, though his deficit is 9 points in Fox News’s survey).

Way #2: Despite the country rallying around Trump — at least more than at any time since his inauguration — he’s still trailing Biden between 2 and 9 points, especially at a time when Biden’s profile has moved to the back burner during this coronavirus crisis.

But more than anything else right now, it’s still very, very early — not only when looking at the general election, but also when it comes to the toll of the coronavirus inside the United States.

By the way, to put Trump’s slight bump in the polls into perspective, a new Siena poll shows New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s job rating at 87 percent in his state.

2020 Vision: Biden on Sanders staying in the race: “It’s up to Bernie”

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Joe Biden was asked about Bernie Sanders remaining in the 2020 Democratic race.

And here was his answer:

“Well, look, Bernie Sanders has poured his heart and soul into this campaign. He has moved the ball along on a number of issues that relate to what government's responsibilities are. And I think it's up to Bernie to make the judgment whether or not he should stay in the race or not stay in the race.”

Biden added, “That's not my judgment to make for him. But I think he's had a real impact. He's brought a lot of people into the process that weren't in it before. And so I think it's a tough decision for Bernie to make.”

Meanwhile, NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor reports that Biden has a new podcast — Here’s The Deal — and the first episode contains an interview on the coronavirus with former Biden chief of staff Ron Klain, who was Barack Obama’s czar in confronting the Ebola crisis.

Take it easy (with sanctions)

After Friday’s passage of the third phase of coronavirus relief — and after President Trump signed the $2 trillion legislation into law — some Senate Democrats are looking to the administration to go further in international relations during the crisis.

NBC’s Capitol Hill team reports that 11 Senate Democrats are asking Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ease economic sanctions against Iran and Venezuela during the pandemic. Their letter states, “As these countries struggle to respond to their domestic health crises, U.S. sanctions are hindering the free flow of desperately needed medical and humanitarian supplies due to the broad, chilling effect of sanctions on such transactions, even when there are technical exemption.”

The Lid: 28 Days Later

Don’t miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at just how much has changed in American politics in the past month.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The DNC is moving its organizing efforts online as it tries to keep voters engaged for 2020.

Here’s how the 2020 contenders are proposing how the unemployed would get health insurance.

Democrats are still haunted by the effects of Sanders’ long campaign in 2016 — and they’re worried that they may be in for a reprise.

And Democrats are trying to win back the internet in the face of Trump’s digital dominance.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t backing some progressives who are challenging incumbents in this year’s primaries.