President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants the U.S. economy back up and running by Easter Sunday on April 12, as the economy has taken a major hit from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are opening up this incredible country. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall in the Rose Garden, sitting alongside host Bill Hemmer and taking questions remotely from Fox News host Harris Faulkner.
“I would love to have it open by Easter. I will tell you that right now. I would love to have that,” Trump said, repeating himself. “It’s such an important day for other reasons. But I’ll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
Asked whether that was in fact possible, Trump said, “Absolutely.”
While the federal government has provided assistance to state and local governments and has issued guidelines about public health and social distancing, it has been state and local governments that have ordered lockdowns or restrictions on businesses and the closing of schools, businesses, and other public facilities.
However, as president, Trump has a bully pulpit to encourage businesses and state and local governments to reopen.
Trump stressed the consequences for keeping the economy shuttered are more dire than the present circumstances under the coronavirus.
“You are going to have suicides by the thousands” if the economy remains closed, Trump said, noting predictions of a 25% drop in gross domestic product would mean massive job losses, closed businesses, and personal depression resulting from personal isolation.
Trump said that doesn’t mean it will be the same as before when Americans do return to work.
“We can socially distance ourselves and go to work,” he said.
The president discussed how experts told him about the need to take strong action.
“They came in, and they said, ‘Sir, we’re going to have to close the country,’” Trump said. “Are you serious about this?”
He noted that the economy has never shut down to this degree for prior disease outbreaks.
“We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off,” the president said. “We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn’t call up the automobile companies and say, ‘Stop making cars.’ … We have to get back to work.”
Earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in the state where almost half of all U.S. coronavirus cases are located, complained about not getting enough ventilators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I look at actions, not words … FEMA says, ‘We’re sending 400 ventilators.’ Really?” Cuomo said. “What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”
Early in the town hall event, Vice President Mike Pence addressed Cuomo’s remarks, saying that more ventilators are going out.
“We’re doing just that. We’re in the process of literally sending the entire national stockpile out. I want the people of New York to know we’re putting a priority on the state,” Pence said.
Trump responded later, somewhat differently. He said Cuomo had the chance to order 16,000 ventilators in 2015 for a pandemic response in the future, but declined to do so.
“We’re building them hospitals. We’re building them medical centers, and he was complaining about it,” the president said “We’re doing definitely more for them than anyone else. He was talking about the ventilators. But he should have ordered the ventilators.”