In preparation for the apex of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. during the next two weeks, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coordinator of the coronavirus pandemic response, urged citizens to forgo unneeded trips to groceries stores and pharmacies in a press briefing. “The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” Birx said.

Epidemiologists’ statistical estimates on COVID-19 have shaped recent U.S. policies. The request for citizens to avoid nonessential shopping trips is based on epidemiologists’ forecasts.

Assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Brett Giroir, repeated Brix’s warning on NBC’s The Today Show. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not be going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe,” he said.

CORONAVIRUS FAQ: WIKI OF MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

The instructions follow a series of governors’ executive orders to shut down nonessential shops and public gathering sites. Current statewide provisions provide exemptions for businesses that state health officials have deemed critical – grocery stores and pharmacies remain on the shortlist.

Giroir used consumer data studies to offer further guidance on shopping trips – the optimal time to venture out on essential runs is in the morning – the data shows that stores are the least crowded then. Giroir cautioned against mid-afternoon errands, when stores are the most crowded.

Epidemiologists have used complex mathematical models, based on aggregate data, to help officials track the pandemic.

New York state has suffered a catastrophic number of cases –  the number of confirmed cases and reported deaths rose to over 139,000 and 7,000 this week.

“This will be probably the toughest week between this week and next week,” Trump said Saturday.

The U.S., which is the epicenter of the breakout, as of Saturday, registered over 20,000 deaths.

On a global level, the disease has struck over 177 countries – with around 1.3 million positive cases and over 100,000 deaths.

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