As Coronavirus Cases Spike, Trump Insists The Economic Impact Could Be Deadlier

President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 23, 2020. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
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March 23, 2020 8:01 p.m.
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Comparing the threat of COVID-19 to automobile accidents, seasonal flu fatalities and suicides on Monday, President Donald Trump made his position on the novel coronavirus’ impact on the economy clear.

“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” he said, over and over. He repeatedly talked about the importance of reopening the economy, despite a spike in coronavirus cases and a growing death toll.

Trump was referencing the extreme and necessary methods some cities, states and even the federal government have suggested (or enforced) in order to slow the spread of the virus.

The shuttering of restaurants, bars, schools and other public gathering places in states across the country has ground the economy to a halt, and, as he did in a tweet Monday morning, Trump suggested that he was losing patience for the life-saving measures.

“America will again and soon be open for business,” he said at one point during a Monday evening briefing. “Very soon, a lot sooner than three or four months, that somebody was suggesting.”

“We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem,” he said, as the immunology expert Dr. Deborah Birx — an advocate for just the “cure” that Trump says is destroying the economy, social distancing — stood behind him without any noticeable reaction.

And, as he openly considered ending one method of “flattening the curve” of coronavirus infection, Trump congratulated himself incessantly: Compared to other countries, he said, “I think we’re doing a very good job of it.”

“The numbers are pretty amazing” in the United States, he said, though the United States keeps adding confirmed COVID-19 cases at an accelerating rate. Later, he told the press assembled in the White House briefing room that he and Vice President Mike Pence were “trying to let you ask anything you want.”

Still, when he was pressed on his timeline for drawing down social distancing measures, Trump offered no specifics.

What if experts told him that the measures to slow COVID-19’s spread needed to be continued? one reporter asked.

“You’ll see what happens,” Trump said, complimenting the “great question.”

“We can do two things at one time,” he added. He pointed to Idaho and Nebraska as two states that had a low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, before trailing off to another topic.

Later, asked if social distancing measures would need to be taken for “weeks” or “months” in his view, Trump said said he wanted to keep it short.

“I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now,” he said. “We’re going to be opening up our country and we’re going to be watching certain areas.”

“You can’t keep it closed for years,” he added. “This is going away.”

Later in the press conference, one could almost hear experts’ eyebrows arching in unison.

“You have almost 160 million jobs in this country now, by far the most ever,” Trump said. “So we can’t turn that off and think it’s going to be wonderful. There’ll be tremendous repercussions. There will be tremendous death from that. Death. You’re talking about death. Probably more death from that than anything we’re talking about with respect to the virus.”

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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