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."

Go deeper

Biden says he'll follow CDC mask guidance: "Listen to the Faucis of the world"

Joe Biden said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that he will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new recommendation that people wear face coverings when they leave home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: After the White House announced the guideline last week, President Trump said he will likely not wear a mask and emphasized that the guidance was "voluntary."

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll passes 9,600

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 9,600 in the U.S. Sunday night, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day since April 1.

Why it matters: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Sunday this upcoming week will be "the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."

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Surgeon general: This week will be "Pearl Harbor" or "9/11 moment" in U.S.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on "Fox News Sunday" that the next week will be "the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives" — calling it our "our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment" — as the projected death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surges.

Why it matters: Unlike those tragedies, Adams emphasized that the direct effects of the coronavirus will not be "localized" and that it will be happening "all over the country." But he also stressed that the public has the "power to change the trajectory of this epidemic" by following social distancing and other public health guidelines.

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