WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would like to “open up” the country by April 12, apparently meaning he’d like the public to go back to work despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter (April 12),” said Trump in an interview with Fox News.
Trump said that he believed the human cost of having people remain at home for an indefinite period would be greater than the cost in terms of risking an overburdened healthcare system and the economic downturn accompanying the stay-at-home and self-isolation measures ordered by many states and municipalities.
“This cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said, adding that “in my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue.”
“We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu, we don’t turn the country off every year,” the president said, noting that the current crisis has created significant destabilization in the economy, the stock market and in people’s daily lives.
Nineteen days remain before Easter Sunday and many states have imposed lockdowns to attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which causes potentially deadly Covid-19 pneumonia in about 2 percent of the people it infects, but Trump insisted that the economy must be reactivated.
Trump claimed, without citing any evidence or studies to back up his statement, that there are likely to be “thousands of suicides” among people left unemployed, financially ruined and/or stuck at home by the crisis if the country remains paralyzed much longer.
The president had warned on Monday that “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself” and emphasized that the economy cannot be allowed to continue deteriorating, or at least stagnating.
It is well known that up to now the dynamism of the US economy, in particular the rising stock market, had been a key basis on which Trump had relied for re-election in November.
“Our country has to get back to work,” Trump said. “Otherwise it’s going to be very hard to start it up again.”
At present, Trump has said that he will keep his two-week recommended curtailment of public events and economic activity - scheduled to last through March 30 - in place, but that he will reevaluate the situation at that point and decide whether to retain that ban on bar/restaurant service and gatherings of more than 10 people.
Trump’s remarks on Tuesday suggest that, in all likelihood, he will eliminate the ban - or recommendation - on March 30.
However, keeping the social distancing and self-isolation measures in place is something that will depend on the governments of each state, a situation that could create a chaotic situation in which some areas focus on containing the coronavirus and others decide to follow the president’s lead and allow people to travel and gather freely once again, despite the risk that this might foster the continued spread of the virus.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who heads the state hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, warned on Tuesday on Twitter that “No one should be talking about social darwinism for the sake of the stock market.”
“My mother is not expendable. Your mother is not expendable. We will not put a dollar figure on human life. We can have a public health strategy that is consistent with an economic one,” he tweeted.
In his interview, Trump insisted that people can continue to practice good hygiene, social distancing and to take other protective measures like washing their hands carefully even if they are back at their jobs.
More than 44,000 people are known to have been infected by the coronavirus in the US and at least 544 have died, according to recent official figures, even as the contagion curve continues to accelerate upwards day by day, the “peak” of the infection cycle not yet having been reached in this country.