New­som, Trump could col­lide over restart­ing

Pres­i­dent ‘rar­ing to go’; gov­er­nor has no end date for safety poli­cies

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Garo­foli and Alexei Kos­eff

Pres­i­dent Trump and Gov. Gavin New­som have been mu­tu­ally com­pli­men­tary dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, but they are on a col­li­sion course when it comes to how long to keep so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in place to blunt the pan­demic.

Cal­i­for­ni­ans could find them­selves caught in the mid­dle as Trump’s stated desire to start re­turn­ing to nor­mal by mid­April con­flicts with what they hear from New­som. The gov­er­nor is­sued a stay­at­home or­der last week and said he wouldn’t back off be­fore see­ing ev­i­dence that the state has be­gun to “bend the curve” of the pan­demic.

On Tuesday, New­som said an April restart “would be sooner than any of the ex­perts that I talk to be­lieve is pos­si­ble.”

“It’s go­ing to con­fuse peo­ple,” said Lee Ri­ley, a pro­fes­sor of infectious dis­ease and vac­ci­nol­ogy at UC Berke­ley. “The only way to make it clear to peo­ple is to have a more uni­form mes­sage.”

Trump said Tuesday that he wants the U.S. econ­omy to be “rar­ing to go” by Easter, April

12. The 15­day pe­riod for so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures he sug­gested this month — in­clud­ing avoid­ing gath­er­ings of more than 10 peo­ple, skip­ping dis­cre­tionary travel and staying away from bars and restau­rants — ends Mon­day. He hasn’t said whether peo­ple should stick to those mea­sures, which are now far more le­nient than or­ders in place in Cal­i­for­nia and sev­eral other states, in the 13 days be­tween Mon­day and Easter.

There are few signs that the pan­demic is eas­ing — in fact, Gov. An­drew Cuomo of New

York, one of the hard­est­hit places, said Tuesday that his state’s rate of in­fec­tions is in­creas­ing. Trump’s sur­geon gen­eral, Jerome Adams, said Mon­day: “I want Amer­ica to un­der­stand — this week, it’s go­ing to get bad.”

Trump, how­ever, is at the fore­front of politi­cians who see soar­ing un­em­ploy­ment num­bers and plunging 401(k) ac­counts and warn that “the cure” — shut­ting down vast sec­tors of the econ­omy in­def­i­nitely — is “worse than the prob­lem.”

“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said Tuesday at a Fox News vir­tual town hall event.

“We can so­cially dis­tance our­selves and go to work.”

Trump didn’t cite any epi­demi­o­log­i­cal pre­dic­tions in choosing Easter to be the na­tion’s restart date. In­stead, he obliquely praised the sym­bol­ism of the day Chris­tians cel­e­brate Je­sus’ res­ur­rec­tion from the dead.

“You’ll have packed churches all over our coun­try,” he said. “I think it’ll be a beau­ti­ful time.”

Trump is let­ting the econ­omy guide his de­ci­sions “be­cause the con­di­tion of the pock­et­book re­elects pres­i­dents,” David McCuan, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at Sonoma State Univer­sity, said Tuesday. “The per­cep­tion of past ver­sus fu­ture eco­nomic con­di­tions at home seems to mat­ter most to vot­ers.”

Med­i­cally speak­ing, how­ever, re­lax­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines that soon “would be risky,” Ri­ley said.

“Look at what is hap­pen­ing — the pan­demic is still on the up­swing,” Ri­ley said. “Look at how long it took China and Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore to con­trol the in­crease in cases. The U.S. is no dif­fer­ent.”

New­som says he is con­sult­ing sci­en­tific mod­els track­ing the pan­demic’s path, which sug­gest the worst is yet to come and that mea­sures to keep so­ci­ety iso­lated could be re­quired for sev­eral months.

New­som said he is op­er­at­ing not just on a dif­fer­ent time­line from Trump when it comes to the out­break, but on an en­tirely “dif­fer­ent play­ing field.” He has made it clear he doesn’t see the cri­sis re­solv­ing any­time soon.

The gov­er­nor pre­dicted last week that schools would not re­open be­fore the sum­mer break, and he has cited mod­els de­vel­oped by state health of­fi­cials that es­ti­mate more than half of Cal­i­for­ni­ans will be in­fected by the coro­n­avirus without ex­treme iso­lat­ing mea­sures.

New­som said Tuesday evening in a Facebook Live event that it would be “mis­lead­ing” to think Cal­i­for­nia could re­lax its stay­at­home guide­lines by April. He said it would be at least six weeks be­fore the state could make ad­just­ments.

“April, for Cal­i­for­nia, would be sooner than any of the ex­perts that I talk to would be­lieve is pos­si­ble,” New­som said.

His fo­cus on the pub­lic health re­sponse has cre­ated its own un­cer­tainty for res­i­dents won­der­ing when they can re­sume nor­mal life. New­som’s stay­at­home or­der has no end

date, and he has of­fered no spe­cific cri­te­ria for lift­ing it.

“When we bend the curve and we see that we’re get­ting our arms around this,” New­som said Mon­day, “then we’ll be able to ask that ques­tion.”

He has avoided any sug­ges­tion of con­flict with Trump, and the pres­i­dent has praised New­som at sev­eral of his coro­n­avirus news brief­ings. New­som said his many con­ver­sa­tions with the pres­i­dent and the sub­stan­tial re­sources Cal­i­for­nia has re­ceived from the fed­eral govern­ment sug­gest that Trump un­der­stands the state’s chal­lenges.

“I have no trep­i­da­tion that, what­ever he de­cides to do from a na­tional prism, will get in the way of our ef­forts here at the state level to do what we need to do to hit this head­on,”

New­som said.

Cuomo ap­peared to chart a mid­dle course Tuesday when he ar­gued that the coun­try doesn’t have to choose be­tween eco­nomic ruin and mass death.

The New York gov­er­nor con­ceded Trump’s ar­gu­ment that it would be “un­sus­tain­able” to “close down the econ­omy . ... But if you ask the Amer­i­can peo­ple to choose be­tween pub­lic health and the econ­omy, then it’s no con­test. No Amer­i­can is go­ing to say, ‘Ac­cel­er­ate the econ­omy at the cost of hu­man life.’ Be­cause no Amer­i­can is go­ing to say how much a life is worth.”

Cuomo said it will soon be time, how­ever, to start to “re­fine” the “blunt” pub­lic health strat­egy of shel­ter­ing ev­ery­one in place.

“Lower­risk in­di­vid­u­als do not need to be quar­an­tined, and they shouldn’t be quar­an­tined with an older per­son who they may be trans­fer­ring it to,” Cuomo said. In­stead, he said, “let the younger peo­ple go back to work. Let the re­cov­ered peo­ple go back to work ... and then ramp up the econ­omy with those in­di­vid­u­als.”

Do­ing so, Cuomo said, would be a way to re­fine “your pub­lic health strat­egy at the same time you’re restart­ing your econ­omy. Those two can be con­sis­tent if done in­tel­li­gently.”

Rich Pe­dron­celli / As­so­ci­ated Press

Gov. Gavin New­som said Trump’s goal to re­open the coun­try on Easter was un­re­al­is­tic.

Drew An­gerer / Getty Images

Pres­i­dent Trump at his daily brief­ing, with Dr. An­thony Fauci in the back­ground.

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