Trump says he wants the country "raring to go by Easter," later says it will be based on "hard data"
President Trump said during a Fox News town hall on Tuesday that he wants the country "back open by Easter" on April 12, signaling impatience with the ongoing business closings, economic slowdown and stock market plunges that are a result of the spreading coronavirus. The "cure," meaning the severe economic slowdown, is "worse than the problem" of the deadly virus, and will kill more people, Mr. Trump insisted.
Mr. Trump expanded upon what he said during a Monday night Coronavirus Task Force briefing — that the U.S. was not built to be shut down, and needs to return to normal soon. The president said the White House will reevaluate the president's 15-day guidelines for social distancing and business closures at the end of that 15 days, which would be early next week.
"I would love to have it open by Easter. I would love to have it open by Easter," Trump said. "I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter."
Mr. Trump said he thinks it's possible, adding the country has never closed before despite "flus."
"Now people are going to have to practice all the social distancing ... but we have to get our country back to work. Our country wants to be back at work," Mr. Trump said.
The president claimed the "cure" for coronavirus, meaning the severe economic slowdown and job losses, is worse than the "problem," being the deadly virus.
"I believe very strongly you're going to lose far more people by going that way than you are if we kept this thing going. I could keep it out. I'm sure we have doctors that would say 'Let's keep it closed for 2 years, ok? Let's close it up for 2 years.' No. We gotta get it open. Our people want it open, that's the way our country was built," the president said on Tuesday.
The president suggested he picked Easter for reasons other than medical ones.
"Look, Easter's a very special day for me," the president said. "And I see it sort of in that timeline that I'm thinking about. And I say, 'Wouldn't it be great to have all those churches full?'...I think Easter Sunday and you'll have packed churches all over our country, I think it would be a beautiful time. And it's just about the timeline I think is right."
At a later briefing by the Coronavirus Task Force, Mr. Trump said the decision to reopen will be "based on hard facts and data as to the opening. I'm also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter, that beautiful Easter day. But rest assured every decision we make is grounded solely in the health safety and well-being of our citizens. This is a medical crisis, this isn't a financial crisis."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. has nearly 50,000 confirmed cases, up from 7,800 one week ago. The president himself has said he expects the outbreak to continue until July or August.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the Coronavirus Task Force, said at the Fox event that the country needs to pay attention to the data collected in the coming days about where the virus is located in order to know if and when social distancing guidelines can be relaxed.
But governors and health experts immediately began questioning that Easter timeline.
In Virginia, where public schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year, Governor Ralph Northam said it's important Americans don't receive mixed messages, and they're "looking at several months," not a matter of a few weeks.
Tom Bossert, the president's former homeland security adviser, said he hopes the president is setting a goal, not a cookie-cutter date.
"The key is a carefully "controlled" return, which requires (among other things) a nonuniform approach across the country," Bossert tweeted. "We'd expect NY to wind down differently, and at a different time, than ND, for example. I hope the President is setting a goal, not a common date & approach."
The president insisted he has a good relationship with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Coronavirus Task Force member and leading infectious diseases expert who did not attend briefings on Sunday and Monday.
Testing in the U.S. is beginning to finally ramp up, with Birx saying the U.S. will surpass South Korea in the number of tests conducted by the end of Tuesday.
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