President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants the U.S. economy to “open” back up by Easter Sunday (April 12), a date that few health experts believe will be sufficient time to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking during a Fox News “virtual town hall” on Tuesday, Trump reiterated he was eager to see the nation return to normal soon, even as doctors warn the nation will see a massive spike in cases if Americans return to crowded workplaces or events.
“I give it two weeks,” Trump said, suggesting he was ready to phase out his 15-day self-isolating federal guidelines when they expire. “I guess by Monday or Tuesday, it’s about two weeks. We will assess at that time and give it more time if we need a little more time. We have to open this country up.”
Trump on ending social distancing: "I would love to have it opened by Easter." (That's April 12)
"That would be a great American resurrection," host Bill Hemmer replies. pic.twitter.com/G1AhP1biNI
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 24, 2020
“We’re opening up this incredible country. Because we have to do that. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said.
“I would love to have that. It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’d love to make it an important day for this. I would love to have the country opened up, and rarin’ to go by Easter,” he added.
In a second interview with Fox that aired Tuesday afternoon, Trump said he offered the holiday as a deadline because “Easter’s a very special day for me.”
When asked why he chose Easter as a good day to end lockdowns, Trump really said this:
“Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full? …Easter Sunday and you’ll have packed churches all over our country.”
No. It wouldn’t be nice. It’d be deadly.pic.twitter.com/NfRuC5iFd3
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) March 24, 2020
“Wouldn’t it be great to have all the churches full?” Trump asked. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country … I think it’ll be a beautiful time.”
Trump added that “I’m not sure that’s going to be the day,” but “that would be a beautiful thing.”
Trump’s new Easter goal came after some Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, sounded the alarm on Trump’s plan and hours after the New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state is expecting a height of coronavirus infections to come in two to three weeks.
“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,” Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, tweeted Tuesday.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves as the White House coronavirus coordinator, was asked during the town hall whether she thinks an Easter deadline is realistic.
“A lot of what we’ve done is tackle this epidemic the way people said we should have tackled the flu in 1918,” Birx responded, adding that the President has asked the task force to use these two weeks “to get all the data from around the country.”
She also reasserted that “every American needs to continue the President’s guidelines for these next six or seven days.”
Despite announcing the new guidelines under the banner “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America,” Trump seemed to distance himself from the practices during the town hall.
“Somehow, the word got out that this is the thing we are supposed to be doing,” he said, noting the country had “never done a thing like this before.”
“But we had to do it. It’s been very painful for our country and very destabilizing,” he said.
As his advisers prepare options for returning the country to work, Trump suggested that Americans would still be able to exercise good health practices while still returning to normal.
“We have to go back to work much sooner than people thought,” he said.