Mar 23, 2020 - Health

Trump says coronavirus restrictions will be lifted "soon," dismissing health experts

President Trump struck a new tone at Monday's coronavirus press briefing, suggesting that social distancing restrictions will be lifted "fairly soon" and that the U.S. has learned enough lessons to re-open the economy despite the ongoing pandemic: “I’m not looking at months, I can tell you that right now.”

Why it matters: Trump and some of his political and economic advisers are losing patience with public health experts who believe that easing restrictions and returning to normal life before "flattening the curve" could overwhelm the health system.

Reality check: We cannot both stop the spread of the coronavirus and reopen the economy.

  • It's not even an either-or decision; the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. will continue to skyrocket regardless, and lifting containment measures will add gasoline to that trend.
  • At this point, lifting the guidelines will translate into a horrifying number of American deaths, all public health projections suggest.
  • And as long as the virus spreads unchecked through the United States, the economy is unlikely to rebound.

Yes, but: The federal government has generally been issuing guidance while leaving decision-making with teeth to state and local authorities.

  • While Republican governors would likely face immense pressure to follow Trump's lead, whatever Trump decides wouldn't have much of an immediate effect on policy.

What he's saying:

  • "This is a medical problem. We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem.”
  • "You look at automobile accidents. Which are far greater than any numbers we're talking about. That doesn't mean we're going to tell everybody no more driving of cars."
  • "If it were up to the doctors, they may say let's keep it shut down — let's shut down the entire world."
  • "You can't do that with a country — especially the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world, by far. ... You can't do that. It causes bigger problems than the original."
  • "I will be listening to ... experts. We have a lot of people who are very good at this. It's a balancing act. You know the expression, we can do two things at one time."

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President Trump has repeatedly said that he sees the federal government’s role as “backup” to the states on the response to coronavirus. But Americans want the federal government — not states — to take the lead, according to our latest KFF tracking poll.

Why it matters: States have so far been the ones issuing specific directives about social distancing, and are also trying to source health care supplies.

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Why it matters: Public health officials have warned this would be a particularly deadly week for America, even as New York began to see declining trends of hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

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Coronavirus testing capacity is still lagging far enough behind demand that the U.S. continues to only test the sickest patients — a bad omen for future efforts to return to normal life.

Why it matters: Diagnostic testing is the cornerstone of any containment strategy. To even begin talking about resuming social and economic activity, we would have to get testing right first.

Go deeperArrowApr 7, 2020 - Health