“I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during a Fox News interview.
Public health experts and local and state leaders have cautioned against easing restrictions too early, saying it could put an enormous strain on hospitals and lead to even more deaths and economic damage. But Trump said Tuesday that he believed the human toll would be greater should Americans continue to stay at home.
“This cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said, adding that “in my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue.”
A White House official said the president does not view Easter as a date that he can begin to open things up, but a date by which the economy is speeding again. That means the loosening of restrictions would, under this scenario, start much sooner. The official says the focus now remains on how to get there, in phases, to address the challenges demographically and geographically.
Trump told Fox News later Tuesday that he was targeting Easter because “you will have packed churches all over our country, I think it would be a beautiful time and it is just about the timeline that I think is right.”
Trump said people can continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing even while going back to work to try to control the virus’s spread.
Trump on Tuesday expressed frustration with the economic consequences of having millions of Americans staying home and compared the coronavirus to the flu, despite public experts cautioning against the comparison.
“We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu, we don’t turn the country off every year,” he said.
Administration officials, eager to get the country back to business, have grown increasingly concerned in recent days about the economic impact the tight restrictions on movement and social interactions are having. These officials said they worry that the White House went too far in allowing public health experts to set policy and that their actions did not need to be so draconian.
The push for Americans to stay home, championed by public health experts, is aimed at curbing the spread of the virus and “flattening the curve” of new cases. Officials in Italy were slow to isolate affected regions and limit movement, leading to one of the world’s worst outbreaks so far.
While Trump may want to see American life return to normal, many governors and mayors are the ones putting orders in place telling residents to stay at home and closing schools, restaurants and bars. On Monday, Michigan’s governor issued a three-week order telling people not to gather in public or private with people who are not part of their household, with some exceptions, and Virginia closed its schools for the rest of the year.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday strongly pushed back on calls to ease health guidelines in hopes of boosting the economy, saying that “we will not put a dollar figure on human life.”
“We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one,” he tweeted. “No one should be talking about social darwinism for the sake of the stock market.”