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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

Dave Lawler, author of World
16 mins ago - World

Israeli ground troops join the fight near Gaza, raising threat of war

Israeli troops prepare to fire shells toward the Gaza Strip. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli ground troops have joined the fight near the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces announced on Thursday night.

Driving the news: While tanks and artillery were deployed for the first time on Thursday, there have not yet been reports of a ground invasion of Gaza. But Israel has called up 9,000 reservists and massed at least three brigades on the frontier with Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

Updated 43 mins ago - Economy & Business

The states ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits early

Protesters demand senators support the continuation of unemployment benefits on July 16, 2020 in Miami Springs, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than a dozen Republican-led states have announced they are terminating their involvement in federal pandemic-related unemployment programs early.

Driving the news: Many of the states' governors cited worker shortages. But some experts say it's the job climate, including pandemic-era factors, and not unemployment benefits that is determining when and how people return to work.