As a Catholic, I certainly appreciate the symbolism. Will America be ready for its economic resurrection in less than three weeks? And what exactly did Donald Trump mean by “raring to go” by Easter?
Although Trump said he hopes to begin relaxing the government's social-distancing guidance by Easter, he did not say what directives the U.S. would release to bridge the 13-day gap between then and the end of the current "15 days to slow the spread" period https://t.co/0CJRREv9xw pic.twitter.com/s1o0zRf0BD
— POLITICO (@politico) March 24, 2020
JUST IN: "I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter (April 12),” President Trump says on Fox News.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 24, 2020
Needless to say, that’s a rather ambitious deadline for a disease where cases are doubling every three days in New York City. Just one caveat — that might not be the deadline by which Trump will recommend that businesses re-open. NBC’s Peter Alexander checked in at the White House, where he was told that Trump meant that the economy would be recovering by Easter:
Re: Easter timeline. A WH official tells me Trump does *not* see that as a date by which he begins opening things up, but when the economy is speeding again. That means the loosening of restrictions would, under this scenario, still start much sooner.
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) March 24, 2020
Say what? Trump argued during the Fox News town hall that the crossover line between deadliness of the disease and the lethality of a crashed economy is coming quickly. At some point, we need to address the latter as a higher priority:
Trump estimates more people will die if the economy isn't re-opened than would die from coronavirus:
"If you delay this thing out, you're going to lose more people than you're losing with the situation as we know it."
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) March 24, 2020
True enough, but there are some conditions for that crossover. The reason for the Great Hunkering Down was to gain enough time to get necessary health-care resources in place by flattening the curve of the coronavirus spread. How are we doing on that so far? FEMA has 400 ventilators on hand to send to New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he needs … thirty thousand. Earlier today, Cuomo criticized the FEMA response and Trump for not using his authority under the Defense Production Act to churn out the machines faster:
NEW: NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo implores federal government to invoke Defense Production Act to produce ventilators, saying relying on private sector to do it on their own will take too long.
— ABC News (@ABC) March 24, 2020
I’ll have more on the DPA authority later today, but we’re not even close to containing the spread in New York City, nor have we come close to putting the necessary resources in place for the re-amplification of the spread of the virus. That will happen at some point, but we need to have the resource curve outpace the infection curve to stay ahead of a disease with an expected mortality rate of ten times that of normal influenza.
Trump cast doubt on the whole effort over the past week-plus, too:
Trump says 36,000 people die each year from the flu: "But we've never closed down the country for the flu. So you say to yourself, what is this all about?"
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) March 24, 2020
What’s it all about? That may be a question asked by people who followed the Trump administration’s own “15 Days to Flatten the Curve” and employ social distancing to the point of shutting the doors to businesses. After following his instructions, those Americans may be a bit chagrined to see Trump questioning the wisdom of those moves at this point.
By the way, at the same time this town hall took place, this bad news from Italy arrived. Looks like they’re not past the increase in deaths yet:
Italy has reported an increase in deaths of coronavirus in the last 24 hours. Another 743 people have died as a result of coronavirus. At least 6,820 people have died in Italy so far. There are at least 69,176 confirmed case of coronavirus in the country. https://t.co/WrnyOrGWOw
— CNN (@CNN) March 24, 2020
It will be interesting to see what the message will be by the time Trump holds his presser this evening. Will they stick with this deadline, or will we see a walkback when the implications of this sink in with Trump’s advisers?
Let’s not forget, though, that governors control most of this process, including when businesses re-open. They may not be anywhere near as sanguine about their preparations — and they’ll be a lot closer to the situation.
Update: Governors may have just gotten a lot more DPA leverage over Trump with this pledge. “If you want us to end our shelter-in-place orders,” they’ll tell him, “send us 25,000 ventilators and one million masks first.” Maybe they’ll use cut-out letters like a ransom note to do so.
Update: This remark preceded the town hall, but it’s still directly on point and from one of Trump’s highest-ranking House backers:
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. https://t.co/AchwfXtuLi
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) March 24, 2020
Will Cheney have something to say about the Easter deadline?