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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

Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial

Sarah Palin. Photo: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, delaying the start of her defamation trial against the New York Times.

Why it matters: The trial will be closely watched, as it's a rare instance of a major media company defending its editorial practices before an American jury.

S&P 500 slides into correction territory

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stocks suffered their worst drop of the year, pushing the S&P 500 on track to fall into a "correction."

Driving the news: The benchmark S&P 500 dropped for its fifth straight day, with losses nearing 3% in early trading.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated."
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated — Annual vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate — Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance — Arizona governor sues Biden administration over funds tied to mandates.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker