"During this time, I encourage everyone to listen to state and local officials, and follow CDC guidelines in order to help protect the health and well-being of everyone," the first lady said Monday


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First Lady Melania Trump announced Monday that this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll will be canceled amid the escalating response to the novel coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 6,500 people worldwide.

“The health and safety of all Americans must be the first priority, especially right now. I deeply regret this cancellation, but we need to make difficult decisions in the short-term to ensure a healthy country for the long-term,” she said in a statement.

The Easter Egg Roll is a carnivalesque tradition dating back more than a century. Last year’s event brought some 30,000 adults and children to the White House for games, festivities and other activities.

This year’s event had been scheduled for April 13.

“During this time, I encourage everyone to listen to state and local officials, and follow CDC guidelines in order to help protect the health and well-being of everyone,” the first lady, 49, said Monday.

It was only the latest in what has become a long string of event cancellations as various levels of government and society mount a more aggressive push to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus which began in China in December.

While the majority of people will experience only mild or moderate symptoms from the disease, a fraction of those infected will have severe respiratory problems and complications requiring medical treatment.

The goal as the virus spreads is to slow it so as not to overwhelm local hospital resources and, in the long-term, to allow researchers the time to develop treatments and a vaccine.

Easter Egg Roll
From left: First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump watch as a child participates in the White House Easter Egg Roll on April 22, 2019.
Easter Egg Roll
First Lady Melania Trump at the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll

Health officials have encouraged basic hygiene, such as regular hand-washing and avoiding others if you are sick, and said “social distancing” is a key early deterrent to the virus’ spread. For many that has meant working from home, closed schools for their children and other major — if temporary — changes to daily life.

Various states have also announced bar and restaurant closings or restrictions and said those people who are must vulnerable to COVID-19, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions, should remain at home and away from groups of people as much as possible.

As of Monday morning, there were about 3,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 66 deaths, most of them in Washington state, an epicenter of the outbreak.

Worldwide, there were about 169,000 confirmed cases and 6,500 deaths.