During a virtual town hall, Donald Trump suggested that the country was ready to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying that it’s possible to gradually lift lockdowns while protecting lives. This comes as the White House has increased its projection for the U.S. death toll by more than 20,000.
According to the Associated Press, Trump declared during the virtual town hall hosted by Fox News, “We have to get it [the country] back open safely but as quickly as possible,” echoing remarks he’s made on numerous occasions over the past six weeks of coronavirus-spurred lockdowns. Trump’s concerns about reopening the economy, and his insistence that states are ready to gradually resume life as usual, come despite the fact that no state in the country is ready to reopen according to White House guidelines.
On Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx, M.D., about the 14-day case decline that the White House is using as a determining factor to assess a state’s readiness to reopen. She responded, “Federal guidelines are a pretty firm policy of what we think is important from a public health standpoint.”
The “we” she refers to is unclear, given that Trump has pushed the idea, including at the virtual town hall, that several states were ready to reopen this month, even praising and encouraging protesters in blue states who are demanding that their governors lift stay-at-home orders much sooner than the recommended time frame.
During the virtual town hall, Trump insisted, “You can satisfy both,” proposing that we can reopen the country without putting people’s lives in danger even though scientists and public health experts disagree. They maintain that resuming life as usual will largely depend on our ability to test and contact trace given that a vaccine isn’t expected before 2021.
In a recent Harvard University study, researchers suggested that the country would need to administer at least 5 million tests a day to safely reopen. Trump, ahead of the virtual town hall, claimed that the country is almost there, but Brett Giroir, M.D., the federal health official overseeing U.S. testing, told Time magazine, “There is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even 5 million tests a day.”
Mixed messaging has been consistent with this administration and its response to the pandemic. It’s likely that time will be the only indicator for if the country truly is ready to resume to pre-pandemic life.