“No one wants to reopen America more than President Donald Trump,” Pence said, even as he hinted that expectations for a speedy reopening were unrealistic. He said that data would ultimately “inform the president’s decision and timing.”

Pence said that “the best thing we can do to reopen America is put the coronavirus behind us, to reach the end of that curve with as little loss of life or hardship as possible.” The curve he was referring to is the by now ubiquitous graph showing data on daily infections. Flattening that curve — that is, decreasing the number of day-over-day new infections — has been the primary goal of public health officials across the country. But even after the epidemic apex is reached, coming back down to a point when there are virtually no new infections at all could take a number of weeks.