President Trump said Tuesday that he wants to have the country “opened up” by Easter — April 12 — as he continued to press the case that the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak is more damaging to the economy than it’s worth.
Trump continued to express concerns that federal guidelines for social distancing, including the closure of some businesses, and other steps to mitigate the outbreak could go too far, despite warnings from public health experts that the restrictions may need to stay in place for weeks.
“I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during a Fox News town hall broadcast from the Rose Garden at the White House. Easter falls on April 12 this year.
“Our people are full of vim and vigor and energy. They don’t want to be locked into a house or an apartment or some space,” Trump said. “It’s not for our country, and we are not built that way.”
During the broadcast, Trump said he reluctantly gave his blessing to the White House strategy of social distancing to “slow the spread” of the virus for 15 days and reiterated he will be reevaluating the wisdom of that approach in coming days.
“I gave it two weeks,” he said, noting the time frame will expire early next week. “We’ll assess at that time.”
He suggested dire consequences if at least some sectors of the economy are not restored.
“We’re going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression,” Trump said. “The other people, you’re going to have suicide by the thousands, you’re going to have all sorts of things happen, you’re going to have instability. You can’t just come in and say let’s close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far.”
Speaking of the economy, Trump said, “The faster we go back, the better it’s going to be.”
Earlier in the town hall, Vice President Pence, appearing separately, urged viewers to continue to abide by the White House distancing guidance for the remainder of the 15 days. He said Trump has asked his coronavirus task to make recommendations about “what’s next.”
Pence said during the next phase, the federal government would remain focused on the “most vulnerable” while finding ways to “open America back up.”
“The president’s asked our team for recommendations about not how we do one or the other, but how we do both,” Pence said. “Over the months ahead, we’ll focus on our most vulnerable, but putting America back to work will also be a priority, as the president said, in weeks, and not months.”