Mar 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump eyes a back-to-work plan despite coronavirus

The White House Correspondents' Association reduced for the second time the number of briefing-room seats that can be occupied on Monday. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump egged on by a growing number of advisers and business leaders, believes the economy will crater absent a strong signal, and wants to stagger the reopening of work nationwide, people who’ve spoken to him tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Trump has been hearing from lots of people in the business community and conservative media telling him the economy can't survive this shutdown much longer. The sources say that "horrific," "truly scary" economic consequences were described to Trump.

"We have to get this going," Trump said during a dinnertime briefing that lasted nearly two hours.

  • "[T]he faster we get it going, the more likely it is that those stores, little businesses, big businesses, medium-sized businesses open up."
  • "And we'll get [the economy] going very fast. ... As soon as we say 'let's go' — and it's gonna be pretty soon. ... It's gonna be sooner than people would think."

What's next: Nothing has been decided yet. But Trump has been persuaded, in line with his instincts, that the economy can’t sustain this shutdown for much longer.

  • The administration is discussing different tiers to ease Americans back into normal life after the 15-day period that ends next Monday.
  • People with underlying health issues or in the highest risk age range will likely be asked to stick with isolation.
  • But others could be encouraged to get back into a more normal routine.

Between the lines: Remember that Trump has no public health professionals in his circle of informal advisers. Those are not his go-to calls when he's in the residence late at night. They’re all business or media folks.

  • The president wants an end date to give businesses, markets and consumers — hence his fixation on the 15-day deadline.

Reality check, via Axios health care reporter Caitlin Owens: For now, the only way to avoid large numbers of deaths is to keep people away from each other to stop the virus' spread.

  • And as long as the coronavirus is spreading, it’s likely to hurt the economy.

Go deeper

Focus group: Minnesota swing voters balk at Trump's Easter deadline

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A group of Midwestern swing voters that supported President Trump's handling of the coronavirus less than two weeks ago is balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter, saying they'll tolerate business closures for as long as it takes to contain the spread.

Why it matters: Their feedback suggests that some voters otherwise mostly supportive of the president — and who still see financial threats outpacing health threats — aren't so tired of social distancing that they're willing to risk ending it too quickly.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Behind the scenes: Why Trump changed his mind about Easter

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.

Why it matters: Coronavirus

On Thursday morning, Axios hosted its first virtual event, convening top editorial talent for an in-depth discussion on the coronavirus outbreak.

Axios Co-founder & CEO Jim VandeHei discussed the latest government approval numbers around coronavirus response with Mark Penn, Chairman at The Harris Poll, and the severity of the economic consequences with Axios Media Reporter, Sara Fischer.

  • Sara Fischer on at-risk workers: "Every sector of the economy is going to be touched by this...[What] we need to be thinking about as a country is how can we ensure that not only the wealthy and well-off are the people that are going to be able to get through this? I worry that some of the people in these sectors, people who can't work remotely...I wonder how this is going to impact them."
  • Sara Fischer on the media's duty to the public: "What the data is showing us is that most people are not taking this seriously enough...It's really up to [the media] to make sure that we're telling the story, that we're using data to inform it and that we're doing it to keep the public and keep our readers safe."

Axios Co-founder Mike Allen and Health Care Reporter Caitlin Owens covered efforts to expand testing, enforce quarantines, and the ongoing race to create a vaccine.

  • Caitlin Owens on the trajectory of the mood on Capitol Hill: "What you're seeing now is Congress working on its third package to address the virus. Congress doesn't work together very well these days, so I think that that is just reflective of the urgency of the situation."
  • Caitlin Owens on the current status of hospitals and testing: "The problem is that America's hospitals do not have the beds or the equipment to treat all those people that statistically will need care. And that's why you're seeing kind of triage units being set up outside of hospitals. We need more of that...We're kind of working with without information here, people aren't getting tested. So we don't quite know how bad the problem is going to be."

Thank you, Bank of America for sponsoring this event.