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WASHINGTON — President Trump wants to end the drastic economic measures aimed at containing the novel coronavirus “by Easter,” less than three weeks from now.
“I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said in a Fox News interview on the White House lawn Tuesday afternoon. “I would love to have that. It's such an important day for other reasons, but I'll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go by Easter.”
The comments were the most specific the president has gotten about his plans to ignore the medical experts urging a longer and stricter shutdown of the U.S. to keep the coronavirus from ravaging society and overwhelming the medical system with patients — which could create a huge spike in deaths in the U.S.
Half the country is currently under lockdown orders of varying severity, driven by recommendations from the CDC to close schools, work from home, and avoid bars and restaurants, and maintain social distancing guidelines for at least 15 days. The slowdown has devastated the national economy, and some states and cities have gone even further in attempts to corral the disease.
Trump has so far been notorious for changing his mind, and he wasn’t definitive about an April 12 end to the national efforts to limit the virus’ spread. But that would be far earlier than most public health officials think is possible. Many medical experts believe the initial 15-day timeline will need to be extended to flatten the curve of coronavirus’ spread, to avoid a sudden surge that would overwhelm the hospitals.
As the interview wore on, Trump became more and more assertive about his plans to end the CDC’s guidelines to cut down on the spread of the disease.
After claiming early on in the interview that “you can destroy a country this way, by closing it down,” he used another new favorite line: "The cure can't be worse than the problem.”
“We want to start up as soon as we can,” he said. “If we delay this thing out, you’re going to lose more people than with this situation as you know it," suggesting there would be suicides.
Trump notably didn’t have Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, by his side during the Fox News interview — even though Vice President Mike Pence and a number of other members of Trump’s coronavirus task force were on hand. Fauci, who was also absent at Trump’s Monday briefing, had been the face of the administration’s response for a few weeks and has recently been a bit more forceful in correcting Trump’s factual misstatements about the crisis.
Trump’s Tuesday remarks weren’t the first indication that he’s grown impatient with the devastating but crucial steps of shutting down vast swaths of the American economy to contain the deadly pandemic.
Goaded by some outside economic advisers, he’s started to push back at the lockdown in recent days:
On Tuesday, the president also reverted to his earlier rhetoric comparing the disease to annual deaths from influenza and car accidents — language that downplays the risk of the pandemic virus. In the last week, he’d pointedly avoided that and appeared to take the pandemic more seriously.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News Channel virtual town hall at the White House, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)