President Donald Trump said Monday evening that the U.S. would ease social distancing restrictions “fairly soon” amid concerns regarding coronavirus prevention measures’ impact on the economy.
“I’m not looking at months, I can tell you that right now,” the president told reporters during a coronavirus press briefing.
Trump said on Monday he is considering how to reopen the U.S. economy when a 15-day shutdown ends next week, even as the highly contagious coronavirus is spreading rapidly and hospitals are bracing for a wave of virus-related deaths.
“America will again and soon be open for business,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House. “We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem.”
President Trump says he’s “not looking at months” when it comes to re-opening the country.
He then raises concerns associated with the economic impact of keeping the country closed including job loss, anxiety, depression, and suicides.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) March 23, 2020
Trump told reporters it was possible to resume economic activity in states with what he said were relatively low rates of infection, citing Nebraska, Idaho and Iowa as examples, while continuing to work on the hot zones in other states like New York.
“If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s shut down the entire world,” said Trump.
Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Trump was considering measures to reopen the U.S. economy.
One source told Reuters that Trump began talking privately late last week about reopening the country after the 15-day shutdown. Trump believes “we are strong and need a strong economy as we deal with this crisis,” the source said.
Trump suggested Sunday he could soon end coronavirus-related restrictions if he determines they are doing more harm than good.
In a late-night tweet, Trump said the “cure” cannot be allowed to be worse than the disease. He said his administration would reevaluate its approach to the outbreak after a 15-day period expires at the end of this month.
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
On Monday morning, Trump retweeted a number conservative commentators who questioned the wisdom of shutting down large parts of the economy to fight the coronavirus.
One of the Twitter users interpreted him as saying anyone not deemed “high-risk” would be allowed to go back to work on April 1.
Correct. 15 days, then we keep the high risk groups protected as necessary and the rest of us go back to work.
— Steph (@steph93065) March 23, 2020
Trump issued new guidelines on March 16 aimed at slowing the spread of the disease over 15 days. He has said that if the government can defeat the virus, the markets will take care of themselves.
Trump senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow signaled a possible policy change in an earlier interview with Fox News on Monday: “The president is right. The cure can’t be worse than the disease. We’re going to have to make some difficult trade-offs.”
(Reuters contributed to this report.)