President Donald Trump announced Monday that he and his administration are looking into ways to restart business activity amid the worsening pandemic. By Tuesday, even as his top advisers were publicly counseling otherwise, Trump was amplifying his call to get Americans sooner rather than later.
The new rhetoric from the president follows moves from state and city officials across the nation to tighten restrictions on people and businesses as COVID-19 cases continue to soar in the United States.
“I’m not looking at months,” Trump said Monday from the White House about the social distancing guidelines that led to school and business closures in early March. “We will be back in business as a country pretty soon.”
By Tuesday, Trump had a specific date for “pretty soon”: April 12.
During a Fox News virtual town hall meeting held from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said, “I’d love to have it open by Easter, OK? I would love to have it open by Easter. I will tell you that right now.”
Easter falls on April 12 this year.
Despite the president’s expression of his desire to ease concerns, 21 states have reinforced different methods for self-isolation. Major events worldwide, such as this summer’s 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, have been postponed.
Trump, whose reelection hopes had been based in large part on a strong economy, just a day earlier had struck a somewhat more cautious tone, saying the federal government will use data in recommending “new protocols” to “cautiously resume their activity at the appropriate time.” The remarks are a detour from his previous statement of having restrictions in place well into summer months.
By Tuesday evening John Hopkins University had tracked more than 700 deaths in the US. due to the pandemic. Officials warn that that number is expected to rise sharply as a vaccine remains many months away.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist and a member of the administration’s task force on the virus, had admitted recently to a certain amount of forbearance about some of the positions Trump has expressed that run counter to scientific advice about how to handle the crisis.
“Well, I don’t disagree in the substance,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview with Science magazine published Sunday. “It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstandings about what the facts are about a given subject.”
Fauci was not present during Monday’s briefing, but Trump said the doctor had been with him for “a long time” at a task force meeting. When asked about the Fauci’s absence, officials repeatedly stated that they were rotating officials who appear at the White House meetings.
Fauci has led multiple federal efforts to combat viral diseases, including HIV, SARS, the 2009 swine pandemic, MERS, Ebola, and now the new virus, which is formally known as SARS-CoV-2.
“I think Tony is playing the same exact role that he has in the past — to make sure the science is accurate and clear,” Rep. Donna E. Shalala of Florida, who was Fauci’s boss during the Clinton administration, said recently.
“I used to make him wear his white coat when talking to the public,” the former Department of Health and Human Services leader added. “I used to make them all wear their coats so people were reassured that they are real doctors.”