coronavirus and the economy
The economic toll of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is severe and growing, and "no one wants to reopen America more than Donald Trump," Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday, albeit "responsibly." The U.S. is at "the top of the hill," Trump said at Thursday's White House briefing. "Hopefully, we're going to be opening up — you could call it opening — very, very, very, very soon, I hope."
Trump can't actually restart the economy since he did not shut it down — most states have issued stay-at-home orders to halt the spread of the disease, and only states can lift them. Nevertheless, the president has privately "sought a strategy for resuming business activity by May 1," The Washington Post reports, and "in phone calls with outside advisers, Trump has even floated trying to reopen much of the country before the end of this month."
Trump's top advisers are more conservative, to varying degrees, The Wall Street Journal notes. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Thursday he thinks the U.S. economy may be ready to reopen by the end of May, while Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said "most people expect" employees to be able to safely return to work "after the second quarter, which of course ends on June 30." Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS News he could see public gatherings resuming this summer "if we do the things that we need to do to prevent the resurgence" of the coronavirus.
"Health experts say that ending the shutdown prematurely would be disastrous," the Post reports, creating another spike in infections and forcing another shutdown "because U.S. leaders have not built up the capacity for alternatives to stay-at-home orders — such as the mass testing, large-scale contact tracing, and targeted quarantines." Pence said Thursday the U.S. has tested two million people, or less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, and Trump rejected the idea that mass testing is necessary to restart the economy.
An early opening is "an aspirational goal," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, told the Post. "It has to be a science-based assessment, and I don't see a mass reopening of the economy coming anytime soon."