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President Trump was flanked at yesterday's briefing by HHS Secretary Alex Azar (far left), Vice President Pence and Deborah Birx. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump's aides, encouraged by virus data showing fewer deaths than once projected, are working behind the scenes to deliver on his vow to reopen America "sooner rather than later."

What to watch: A senior White House official said there’s a lot of internal energy pushing for May 1, because that's the end of the White House's "30 Days to Slow the Spread."

  • That energy is especially coming from some of the more economic and politically minded aides. "We are looking at when the data will allow the opportunity to reopen," said the official.
  • But there are "a lot of different scenarios" and "not one plan that people are rallying around,” the official said.
  • The West Wing is not close to a decision. And officials insist they'll follow data, not dates.

Public health officials are very wary of optimistic talk of an imminent reopening from some members of the White House economic team.

  • A senior HHS official said, "Talk of reopening the American economy — when we don’t fully understand the virus, and can’t even crank our own domestic assembly lines to make diagnostic tests, respirators and ventilators — isn't just myopic, it's flat out ridiculous."
  • "The president’s primary focus continues to be the health and safety of the American people," said one top official defending the president. "That being said, he is committed to leading a historic economic recovery and will begin to lay the foundation of that effort as we continue to navigate the pandemic."

The federal government will ultimately defer to governors.

  • But in a signpost to the internal conversation about a phased-in return to work, the CDC yesterday posted guidance on how critical employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 can return to work.
  • That includes screening by temperature and symptoms, regular monitoring, a requirement that the worker wears a mask for 14 days since the last exposure, social distancing, and disinfection of workspace.

Some officials worry the economy will remain soft even after the guidance changes: The fear level could remain high, and people may stay home anyway.

  • And one key to mitigating that fear — readily available testing for all Americans and antibody testing — isn't there yet.

The bottom line per a senior administration official: "People who put specific dates out there will continue to lose."

  • Trump pivoted away from a date again yesterday, saying he’d consult with his health professionals — and watch the curve.

Go deeper

Updated 28 seconds ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

2 hours ago - Health

CDC director says COVID-19 messaging should have been clearer

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the messaging around the COVID-19 pandemic and changing guidance should have been clearer.

State of play: Walensky is being coached by media experts and is planning to have more press briefings by herself in order to ensure that CDC is seen as an independent, scientific entity, rather than as a political one, the Journal reports.

3 hours ago - World

UAE asks U.S. to reinstate Houthi terrorist designation after attack

Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) listens to United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan during a joint news conference at the State Department iin October. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed asked Secretary of State Tony Blinken in a phone call Monday to re-designate the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization, a senior Emirati official told Axios.

Why it matters: Less than a month after he assumed office, President Biden rolled back the Trump administration’s decision to make the designation. He said it hampered humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. Since then, the Houthis have escalated their attacks against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region — including an attack Monday in Abu Dhabi.