Trump Hopes to Have U.S. Reopened by Easter, Despite Health Experts’ Warnings
Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Source: The Wall Street Journal
President says Americans could continue social distancing but go back to work after 15-day period ends
WASHINGTON—President Trump said he hopes to have the country reopened in just over two weeks, a timeline that is dramatically sooner than what many public-health experts have recommended to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Mr. Trump said on a Fox News town hall filmed in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. Easter falls on April 12.
He said that once the 15-day period in which the government has urged Americans to practice social distancing ends next week, “we’ll stay a little bit longer than that” but that he wants the effective shutdown of the country to end “very soon.”
For days, the president and his aides have been discussing easing social-distancing guidelines as early as next week. The president has been pushed by advisers and business leaders to boost an economy beset by deepening job losses nationwide, people familiar with the discussions said. Other aides, particularly public-health advisers, have cautioned Mr. Trump against easing the guidelines, warning the measures remain necessary.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on NBC on Friday that it would be at least several weeks before the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. begins to abate. “I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now it’s going to be over,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a chance of that. I think it’s going to be several weeks.”
The social-distancing guidelines instructed all Americans to avoid nonessential travel, sit-down restaurants and gatherings of more than 10 people, among other steps.
“You can destroy a country this way, by closing it down,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. “I gave it two weeks…and we’ll assess at that time, and we’ll give it some more time if we need any more time. But we have to open this country up.” He predicted that if the shutdown continues, the economy could descend into a massive recession, which he said could be accompanied by a marked uptick in depression. “You’re going to have suicides by the thousands” he said.
Even if the president relaxes federal guidelines, Americans would still be subject to restrictions that governors and mayors nationwide have rolled out, shutting schools and many retail businesses.
Easing the guidelines would run counter to public-health experts who have said sustained social distancing is needed until the U.S. develops a vigorous testing regime to identify and isolate cases. Widespread testing is still a long way off and labs now are struggling with supply issues that are further hampering the ability to identify cases. The virus can be spread when people are asymptomatic.