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President Trump shows off a COVID-19 test kit by Abbott in the Rose Garden yesterday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Scenes out of New York, including bleak hospital images played on Fox News, struck a nerve with President Trump and caused him to drop his aspiration of reopening America by Easter, senior administration officials tell Axios.

Between the lines: By the time the president's medical advisers showed him modeling on Sunday of predicted deaths, emotional and economic factors had been bearing on him for days.

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also played a key role, according to two sources familiar with the conversations.
  • Mnuchin told Trump the Fed's actions and the $2.2 trillion congressional rescue bill would sufficiently cushion the short-term blow once the money gets into people's hands.
  • Mnuchin's message, according to one of those sources: "If you’re going to put more than $5 trillion out in a quarter, you’re going to make up for enough of that activity."

The distancing extension became, in Trump's mind, less risky than rolling back the guidance, even though he remained fixated on the economy and the stock market, according to another source who spoke with Trump.

  • The source said Trump had already signaled to the market that he's willing to spend whatever it takes to keep the economy afloat. And he's already signaled strongly that he doesn’t like the idea of an extended shutdown.
  • "Better to overextend now and reopen sooner than people expect," the source said. "The fact he’s already signaled he doesn’t like it and [the stimulus] act passed seems enough for the market."

Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, his top medical advisers on the virus, made presentations in the Oval Office on Sunday.

  • Birx showed a few slides and shared with Trump the modeling of predicted deaths that he disclosed shortly thereafter in his Rose Garden press conference.
  • That meeting was set up as the official "decisional" meeting, aides said. And the stats left a dramatic impression on Trump.
  • But the New York scenes on TV had personalized the situation. And Mnuchin's input had convinced him the safer course was to give the shutdown more time.
  • So Trump's mind was already made up. It was a very short meeting.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.