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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 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Hospital crisis deepens as holiday season nears.
  2. Vaccine: Moderna to file for FDA emergency use authorizationVaccinating rural America won't be easy — Being last in the vaccine queue is young people's next big COVID test.
  3. Politics: Bipartisan group of senators seeks stimulus dealChuck Grassley returns to Senate after recovering from COVID-19.
  4. Economy: Wall Street wonders how bad economy has to get for Congress to act.
  5. 🎧 Podcast: The state of play of the top vaccines.
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At least eight Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.

Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

FCC chairman to depart in January

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ajit Pai will leave his post as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 20, the agency said today.

Why it matters: Pai's Inauguration Day departure is in keeping with agency tradition, and could set up the Biden administration with a 2-1 Democratic majority at the FCC if the Senate fails to confirm another Trump nominee during the lame-duck period.