Pres­i­dent says it’s safe for states to re­open with cau­tion

At Lin­coln Me­mo­rial town hall, he of­fers sup­port to lock­down pro­test­ers

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY FELI­CIA SONMEZ, MERYL KORNFELD AND KATIE METTLER

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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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