[guest post by Dana]
President Trump claimed today that there “would be suicides by the thousands” if Americans weren’t allowed to return to work:
“We have to put the country to work,’ he said on Fox News. “You are going to lose a number of people to the flu, but you are going to lose more people by putting the country in a massive recession or depression.”
“You are going to lose people. You are going to have suicides by the thousands,” he continued. “You can’t just come in and say, ‘Let’s close up the United States of America.'”
Following his claim, Trump said that he would like to see the economy up and running by Easter:
Trump…doubled down on his push to reopen businesses in a matter of weeks in order to reinvigorate an economy stunned by the growing pandemic.
“You can destroy a country this way, by closing it down, where it literally goes from being the most prosperous,” Trump said.
“I’d love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said. “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.” Easter falls on April 12 this year.
Asked whether that was feasible, Trump said it’s not only possible but necessary to soon lift the current social-isolation measures that have sent the economy into a spiral.
“Again, this cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said. “Many people, in my opinion more people, are going to die if we allow this to continue. We have to get back to work.’’
Trump’s frustration about the slowed economy became more apparent as he challenged the less-than-supportive reponse to his plan by his Coronavirus Task Force:
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said: “We will assess at the end of the 14 days and we’ll figure out the most appropriate thing to do…”
[Dr.]Birx urged Americans to continue following the White House guidelines designed to slow the spread of the virus, which were released on March 16 and provided for 15 days of action. “Every American needs to continue the president’s guidelines for these next six days or seven days. We have to have them following those guidelines,” she said… Trump then broke in to say that his thinking had changed once it appeared that the mortality rate of COVID-19 was lower than the worst case estimates. (There is no way to know the true mortality rate since testing has been so limited in the United States.)
“Excuse me just one second,” Trump said. “You can’t compare this to 1918 where close to 100 million people died,” he said, referring to the 1918 flu pandemic. “If you got it, you had a 50/50 chance, or very close, of dying. I think we’re substantially under 1%, because the people that get better are not reporting,” he said. “When they came into my office, don’t forget — they said 3%, 4%, 5% — there’s a very big difference. No – we have to put our country back to work.”
Other medical experts have also pushed back on Trump’s tentative goal of Easter: Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, issued a warning about any effort to ease up on social distancing measures at this juncture:
“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that,” he tweeted. “COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was not present during today’s townhall, said on Face the Nataion this past Sunday:
“The things that we’re seeing in this country, this physical separation at the same time as we’re preventing an influx of cases coming in, I think that’s going to go a long way to preventing us from becoming another Italy.”
More responses from health officials to the president’s projected Easter date:
Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, told the New York Times, “You can’t call off the best weapon we have, which is social isolation, even out of economic desperation, unless you’re willing to be responsible for a mountain of deaths.”
Caplan added 30 days of restrictions “makes more sense than 15 days.” “Can’t we try to put people’s lives first for at least a month?” he said.
Howard Koh, a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor and former Obama administration public health official, told Politico it’s “way too early to even consider rolling back any guidelines.”
“With cases and deaths rising by the day, the country must double down, not lighten up, on social distancing and related measures,” he added.
Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, said in a Twitter thread, “There’s a strong and understandable desire to return to better times and a functioning economy. But it should not be lost on anyone that there’s no such thing as a functioning economy and society so long as covid-19 continues to spread uncontrolled in our biggest cities.
Ignoring the advisement of health officials, Trump seems prepared to base a critical decision that has the potential to dangerously impact untold numbers of Americans, on his continued belief that the cure is worse than the problem.