May 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump: "we're not closing our country" for second coronavirus wave

President Trump speaks to the press at the White House on May 21. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters on Thursday that while a second wave of the novel coronavirus is "a very distinct possibility," the U.S. should not issue widespread lockdowns or stay-at-home orders to fight the next outbreak.

Why it matters: This strategy would be a reversal of the administration's previous support for stay-at-home orders, most notably by NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Trump has frequently hedged on how long the country should remain closed.

Flashback: "I’ll tell you what — I did something that the experts thought I shouldn’t have done: I closed down our country and our borders. I did a ban on China from coming in, other than U.S. citizens. And we did very strong checks on even our U.S. citizens," Trump said in late April, stressing the benefits of the administration's actions.

Where it stands: Fauci told the Post this week that he has "no doubt" there will be new waves of the virus, with infections possibly rising in the fall. Many scientists say a second wave may not hold until then, the New York Times reports.

  • Stay-at-home orders have been issued on a state-by-state basis, with governors deciding how long their economies can withstand shuttered business and isolated people.
  • The official White House stance on states issuing stay-at-home orders has been to defer to each governor's judgement. Nearly every state has taken steps to reopen parts or the entirety of their economy, per a NYT analysis.

What he's saying: "People say that's a very distinct possibility, it's standard, and we're gonna put out the fires," Trump said, when asked if he was concerned about a second wave of the virus. "We're not going to close the country, we're going to put out the fires.There could be, whether it's an ember or a flame, we're gonna put it out. But we're not closing our country."

Go deeper... Trump: It's "possible" some lives will be lost to coronavirus due to U.S. reopening

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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.

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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.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New research suggests that the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state was likely started by someone who came to the U.S. in mid-February, not by the first confirmed infection in the country, STAT reports.

Why it matters: The research indicates that the U.S. could have been more successful in mitigating community spread of the virus had it acted sooner.