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President Trump said Sunday that the federal government’s guidelines for social distancing would last until April 30, backing down from his previous comments that he hoped the country could go back to work by Easter.

He had clashed with public health experts around the country when he suggested that the guidelines — which urge people to stay at home and not to gather in groups of more than 10 — might be relaxed by April 12. His announcement on Sunday indicated that he had backed down from that suggestion.

Earlier in the day, a commercial aircraft carrying gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai touched down at Kennedy International Airport in New York, the first of 22 scheduled flights that White House officials say will funnel much-needed goods to the United States by early April.

The plane carried 130,000 N95 masks, nearly 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and more than 70,000 thermometers, said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA will provide the majority of the supplies to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with the rest going to nursing homes in the area and other high-risk areas across the country, a White House spokesman said.

While the supplies will be welcomed by hospitals and health care workers — some of whom have resorted to rationing protective gear or using homemade supplies — they represent just a tiny portion of what American hospitals need. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the United States will require 3.5 billion masks in the event of a pandemic lasting a year.

The pandemic has started a race among foreign governments, American governors and mayors, good Samaritans and opportunists to acquire protective gear, ventilators and other goods from China, the source of more than one-third of medical supplies in the United States in 2019. While China’s own coronavirus epidemic has subsided since February, newly built factory lines in the country are beginning to churn out masks, gowns and gloves.

The flights are the product of a public-private partnership — led by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser — in which the administration is looking to health care distributors like McKesson Corporation, Cardinal, Owens & Minor, Medline, and Henry Schein.

With pleas from state and city leaders for more medical supplies, and questions raised about his interactions with some of them, Mr. Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he would delegate calls to governors — typically Democrats — that he has had personal disagreements with, doubling down on his assertion that the governors need to treat him “fairly.”

“I don’t have to call because I’m probably better off not,” Mr. Trump said. “I get Mike Pence to call. I get the head of FEMA to call. I get the admiral to call.”

President Trump at a White House briefing on Sunday praised two of the nation’s largest health insurers, Cigna and Humana, for agreeing to protect their customers from out-of-pocket costs if they need treatment for Covid-19.

Describing the insurers’ decision as “a big deal,” Mr. Trump said the companies don’t “waive co-pays too easily, but we asked them and they did it.”

The insurers’ decision represents a rapid change in how companies are responding to the pandemic, where people with high deductibles could owe thousands of dollars. While insurers and government officials have taken steps in recent weeks to limit people’s out-of-pocket costs when they get tested, the bills associated with treatment for Covid-19 can run in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single hospital stay.

“Let’s take the economic burden and the economic uncertainty off the table,” said David M. Cordani, the chief executive of Cigna, in an interview before the White House briefing.

Under the new policy, customers “don’t have to worry about the financial burden of the virus while their lives are being turned upside down,” said Bruce Broussard, the chief executive of Humana.

Both Mr. Cordani and Mr. Broussard said they hoped other insurers would follow suit. Last week, another large insurer, Aetna, now part of CVS Health, said it would also waive cost-sharing related to hospital stays.

Employers that self-insure provide coverage to the majority of workers in this country, and they would not be affected by the insurers’ decision. They would have to decide individually whether they would take similar action. “It is going to be a client-by-client decision,” Mr. Cordani said.

Whether individuals will be completely free of any surprise medical bills is also unclear, given the frequent disputes that normally arise between insurers and hospitals and doctors. People who get care from…



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