Coronavirus: US Planning for '10-12 Week Scenario' as They Prep Economic Stimulus Payments

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was on Fox News this weekend with a new estimate on the time frame of the coronavirus pandemic. Mnuchin told Fox Sunday viewers he hoped the Trump administration's COVID-19 relief package would last about 10 to 12 weeks. This raised new questions about the time frame for social distancing and other aspects of the response.

Mnuchin spoke at length about the coronavirus relief bill currently making its way through the Senate, which comes from the minds of both legislative and executive leaders. It includes financial aid for individuals and businesses, as well as funding for medicaid, free coronavirus testing and other measures to reduce the economic shutdown caused by social distancing. However, many viewers zeroed in on Mnuchin's estimation of the time frame for this relief package.

"First of all, I hope this gets passed on Monday, because we need the money now," he said. "I would say we're looking at this from anywhere to a 10 to 12 week scenario. But, again, this situation is moving quickly, we need to get the money into the economy now."

"I think the president has every expectation that this going to look a lot better four or eight weeks from now," he added.

The comments caused some confusion online, as some viewers took this to mean that the social distancing practices only need to last 10 to 12 weeks. Others suggested that Mnuchin was underestimating how long the social distancing should last. His comments were misconstrued by some, as some claimed Mnuchin had said that the isolation only needed to last until late June.

In fact, experts say social distancing will need to last much longer to ensure that the coronavirus pandemic does not overtake the healthcare system. CNN reported on a research study by the Imperial College in Great Britain, "would suggest you have to institute these kinds of measures for five months, very vigorously."

"And then you may be able to relax for a period. And then you would re-institute as the cases go up again," the researchers went on. "But we're basically looking at doing this over and over and over again, even after a five-month period of strict social distancing, in order to curb cases until we have a vaccine."

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Another report by The BBC suggested that people should begin planning on social distancing lasting "most of a year," and should cancel any large gatherings they have scheduled.

For the latest on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.