Mar 27, 2020 - Health

Advisers steer Trump to drop back-to-work deadline

CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in the socially distanced White House briefing room. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Believing the worst is yet to come, some top advisers to President Trump are struggling to steer him away from Easter as an arbitrary deadline for much of the nation to reopen.

State of play: The operating assumption among administration officials involved in the coronavirus planning is that the April 12 mark — 16 days away — will not, in fact, turn out to be the starting gun for businesses across America to reopen.

  • But Trump is far from chastened. "I don’t think he feels in any way that his messaging was off," a top official said. "He feels more convinced than ever that America needs to get back to work."

One person close to Trump expressed concern about market reaction the day after Easter, if the president allows that to be set up too rigidly as Open Day.

  • If the reality is worse than Trump hopes — and large numbers of Americans have to stay isolated — some close to Trump think a false Easter expectation could send markets downward.

Between the lines: The reality is that the administration is unlikely to go from red light to green light.

  • More likely it’s a step-by-step process — a "tiered" approach, different guidelines based on geography and other factors, as Trump has been foreshadowing.
  • Trump sought yesterday to provide himself more flexibility, given internal expectations that awful data will only mount.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN last night that Easter was Trump's "aspirational projection" to "give people some hope." But Fauci said Trump is "listening to us when we say we really got to reevaluate it, in real time, and any decision we make has to be based on the data."

Weaning Trump from setting a date for millions of Americans to get back to work is a delicate, ongoing process.

  • Final options haven't been presented to Trump, as officials await more data.
  • Aides plan to continue finalizing recommendations right up to expected weekend meetings with the president.

What's next: Despite the blowback for imposing an unrealistic and artificial deadline on a virus that knows no deadline, Trump remains impatient.

  • On Monday, he faces his first self-imposed deadline — the end of the White House's "15 days to slow the spread."
  • Some senior administration officials said they wish they could ignore it, because they need more time for societal isolation to catch up to the virus.
  • But the White House’s decision to relentlessly brand that 15-day period means Trump will have to address it somehow.

Behind the scenes: Advisers have tried to encourage Trump to offer hope without dates or deadlines — to get him away from offering dates and to find new ways to be optimistic without giving the public a false expectation that an end to the crisis is near.

  • Aides have discussed using other benchmarks to give the public a sense that the coronavirus shut-in won’t go on forever.
  • They've talked about getting past the peak of transmissions, then gradually loosening restrictions as cases trend downward.

Trump has already signaled the direction he wants to go: He wants states to pursue their own policies, depending on their level of risk.

  • He's encouraged by states like Alabama and Mississippi keeping many businesses open, and sticking to fairly basic measures like hand washing and social distancing.
  • Trump accepts that other states like New York will likely stay shut down.

The bottom line: A senior White House official said the administration is having trouble offering anything approaching certainty.

  • With states including Louisiana and Florida showing increasingly alarming signals, there’s a sense that a rolling disaster awaits.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.

Go deeper (2 min. read)ArrowUpdated 14 hours ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 5,722,859 — Total deaths: 356,435 — Total recoveries — 2,374,387Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 1,702,911 — Total deaths: 100,576 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. Business: U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter — 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week.
  4. States: America's megacities could lose economic growth due to remote work.
  5. 2020: Joe Biden to speak virtually at Texas Democratic Convention.
  6. ✈️Transportation: What airlines are offering passengers to ensure social distancing.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci: Data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus

Anthony Fauci told CNN Wednesday that the scientific data "is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy" of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.

Driving the news: The comments came in response to news that France on Wednesday banned the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus, after a large retrospective study in The Lancet found an increased risk of heart problems and death among coronavirus patients who took the anti-malarial drug.