President says it’s safe for states to reopen with caution
At Lincoln Memorial town hall, he offers support to lockdown protesters
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday sought to reassure Americans that it is safe for states to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, offering support to protesters who have railed against the lockdowns across the country.
“I really believe that you can go to parks, you can go to beaches ... [if] you stay away a certain amount,” Trump said during a Fox News Channel town hall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
Trump said it’s possible to “satisfy both” antilockdown protesters and those who are afraid to resume public life. He noted that Americans have been wearing face masks and social distancing in recent weeks and said that “you’re going to have to do that for a while,” even as states reopen their economies.
He scaled up the estimate he has used for the number of expected dead — projecting that the
U.S. toll may be as high as 100,000 — while emphasizing that he takes the novel coronavirus seriously and noting that three of his friends have died after contracting it.
Trump had previously said that about 65,000 Americans would probably die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Trump’s comments came as governors continued to grapple with reopening pains amid ongoing pushback against coronavirus restrictions.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, on Sunday defended her decision to extend a stayat-home order to May 15, declaring that “whether you agree with me or not, I’m working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said a recent spike in cases was merely a “one-day blip”
caused by increased testing and pledged that he and other officials were “doing everything in our power to get our state opened as soon as possible.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he had abruptly reversed a decision to make mask-wearing mandatory because people “were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”
Anti-lockdown protesters have demonstrated at capitols across the country in recent weeks. Trump on Friday expressed support for protesters in Michigan — some of whom were armed with military-style rifles — tweeting that “these are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!”
Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, rebuked some of the demonstrators, saying on
“Fox News Sunday” that while she supports their right to protest, they should not be gathering close to one another and forgoing face masks.
“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said. “So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.”
After the expiration of the federal social-distancing guidance at the end of April, states have largely been left to their own devices when it comes to reopening their economies.
The White House last month released a three-phase plan for a gradual reopening, but it offered few specifics. Since then, members of the White House coronavirus task force have begun reviewing expanded guidelines, though there is debate within the administration over the impact the new guidance would have, particularly on faith communities and restaurants.
On Sunday, the governors of several states faced questions about the steps they have taken amid the pandemic. Some, such as Whitmer, defended the need for stay-at-home orders, arguing that “this isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of.”
“I’m going to continue to do my job, regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think
... makes sense,” Whitmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re going to listen to facts and science, because we have got to get this right.”
Whitmer also sharply criticized “some of the outrageousness” that was on display during last week’s protests in Lansing, which she said “depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.”
“The Confederate flags, and nooses, the swastikas, the behavior that you have seen in all of the clips is not representative of who we are in Michigan,” Whitmer said.
Reeves, meanwhile, said during a news conference Friday that he had intended to announce a relaxing of safer-athome orders but instead shared the news that there were 392 cases in the state over the previous 24 hours.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Reeves said the state had since analyzed the data and found that the number of cases was higher because more tests were done. He said that finding led him to conclude the state could further relax social distancing requirements.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Sunday announced a partnership with six neighboring states to jointly buy $5 billion of personal protective equipment, ventilators, tests and other standard medical equipment. The states — New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — seek to maximize their buying power as a collective and end the bidding competition against one another.
The Senate planned to reopen Monday, despite the Washington area’s continued status as a virus hot spot and with the region still under stay-at-home orders. The House remains shuttered.
The pandemic is forcing big changes at the tradition-bound Supreme Court: The justices will hear arguments, beginning Monday, by telephone for the first time since Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention in 1876.
Congressional Republicans are resisting calls by Democrats for emergency spending for states and local governments whose revenue streams all but dried up in recent weeks. The GOP is counting on the country’s reopening and the rebound promised by Trump as their best hope to forestall another big round of virus aid.
President Donald Trump spoke Sunday during a Fox News virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The event was co-moderated by FOX News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.