US President Donald Trump has hailed developments in the race for a coronavirus vaccine while ruling out a national lockdown to curb the surging pandemic, even as Oregon and New Mexico imposed tougher restrictions and west coast states called for a halt in non-essential travel.
In his first public remarks following his election loss to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, Trump said he expected a vaccine to be available for the entire population as soon as April, amid a crush of new infections that has pushed daily case counts to record highs.
Pfizer has said it expects to report required safety data next week and can then apply for an emergency use authorisation.
Trump's remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Friday came after he received an update on Operation Warp Speed, an administration effort to turbocharge development of a vaccine.
He also asked all Americans to remain "vigilant" but ruled out a nationwide "lockdown".
"Hopefully, whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be, I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown," Trump said, which was the closest he has come to acknowledging that President-elect Joe Biden could succeed him.
A senior adviser to Biden said the next administration also had no plans for a nationwide lockdown.
Dr Vivek Murthy, who leads Biden's coronavirus advisory board, told ABC's Good Morning America "the way we should be thinking about this is more like a series of restrictions that we dial up or down depending on how a bad spread is taking place in a specific region".
Their remarks came as Oregon ordered a two-week "freeze" banning businesses being open to the public and New Mexico imposed a two-week stay-at-home order.
Oregon also joined an advisory with California and Washington urging the public to indefinitely avoid out-of-state travel unless necessary.
Elsewhere, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the governors of six northeastern states had scheduled an emergency weekend meeting to co-ordinate their responses to the surge in infections.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert serving on the Trump's coronavirus task force, said on Thursday he had had no contact with Biden's transition team but his advice for them would be the same as it was for Trump: social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks, washing hands.
Surges in COVID-19 infections are alarming officials across the United States, with more than 100,000 new cases detected each day. The country has reported a seven-day rolling average of more than 1000 deaths in the past six consecutive days, a trend last seen in August.
The number of cases reported daily more than doubled in 13 states during the past two weeks, most of them in the midwest, led by Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, according to a Reuters tally.
Reuters with AP