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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."

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.