“He desperately wants to reopen as much as possible on May 1,” said one former official briefed on internal discussions. “He’s been that way from the beginning, and he has not wavered. He seems determined to do it. But there’s a growing realization that you won’t be able to open everything up by May 1. Even he realizes that’s a bad idea.”

Rather, the debate this week has been over how to implement the return, what data could be used to justify the decision, and how to build public support for it to provide the president maximum political cover, according to one senior administration official involved in the discussions and a second person who has been briefed on them.

Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly, according to two former administration officials familiar with the efforts.