WHITE HOUSE – U.S. President Donald Trump wants Americans to return to work as soon as possible while continuing to maintain a safe distance from each other to avoid spreading the COVID-19 disease, a combination that health experts warn may not be compatible.
“Our people want to return to work,” Trump said in a Tuesday morning tweet. “They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!”
The tweet echoes comments Trump made to reporters the previous evening in the White House briefing room.
“Our country wasn’t meant to be shut down,” said the president on Monday.
Trump, at the daily media briefing by the White House coronavirus task force, said a large team is working on what the next steps will be in order to end the virtual shutdown of the world’s largest economy.
At a certain point, the country needs “to get open, get moving,” Trump stated, making it clear he is weighing the risk from the COVID-19 pandemic against the economic damage being done to the country from the shutdown of most businesses.
Coronavirus death toll
Deaths as a result of an extended economic crisis could exceed those caused by the virus in the United States, according to the president who stated that the mortality rate for the coronavirus is less than 1% – much lower than had been anticipated.
“America will again and soon be open for business,” said Trump, explaining it will not be the three-to-four-month time frame predicted by some who warn the dire threat from the virus will not recede quickly.
The physicians, if they had their way, would “shut down the entire world,” the president asserted.
Last Monday Trump helped introduce a 15-day plan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to stem the rise of coronavirus cases by encouraging most people to stay home. The campaign is scheduled to end March 31, but many expect it to be extended.
Trump said governors will “have a lot of leeway if we open up.”
His top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, on Tuesday, told reporters there are zones of the country “where the virus is less prevalent. Things are safe. We’re not abandoning the health professionals’ advice, but there is a clamor to try to reopen the economy.”
‘I am petrified’ health expert tells VOA
The executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University’s school of medicine, Dr. Robert Murphy, told VOA he hopes social distancing recommendations will not be relaxed prematurely out of concern for the U.S. economy.
“I am petrified. Hopefully the states will ignore these directives,” said Murphy, a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering.
Such action would be a very sad way “to test Darwinian Law,” added Murphy,
A House member from Trump’s Republican party is among the politicians cautioning against relaxing social distancing.
“There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus,” tweeted Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney.
The governor of New York, the hardest-hit state in the country by the coronavirus outbreak, is also criticizing the president’s suggestion.
“No American is going say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life,” Andrew Cuomo said at his daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. “Don’t make us choose between a smart health strategy and a smart economic strategy.”
The focus, Cuomo added, should be “on the looming wave of cases” of COVID-19 patients coming in about two weeks.
Several U.S. states announced new restrictions Monday, boosting the number of people under stay-at-home orders to about one-third of the population.
Surveys have found, in general, Republicans — compared with Democrats — taking the threat from the pandemic less seriously and more inclined to believe the media are hyping the coronavirus outbreak.