‘America will soon be open for business’: Trump indicates early end to Covid-19 shutdown
He gave no timeline for when he plans to end the Covid-19 shutdown but indicated he is looking at weeks and not months.Updated: Mar 24, 2020 10:01 IST
President Donald Trump on Monday indicated he is considering ending restrictions in place to deal with the coronavirus and declaring the country “open for business” again even as the US toll jumped by 100 in a day for the first time and his medical experts warned the virus was spreading at an alarming rate in New York city, the new epicentre of the global outbreak.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump said at the daily White House briefing. “America will again and soon be open for business.”
He gave no timeline for when he plans to do it but indicated he is looking at weeks and not months. A decision could be taken early next week, at the end of the 15-day period set by the administration to slow down the pandemic.
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Asked if his medical experts were on board, specially Dr Anthony Fauci, the head epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health who has emerged as the single-most trusted member of the White House task force spearheading US response, the president dodged a direct reply: “He does not agree.” Dr Deborah Birx, the other medical expert on the team, said she wants to see the data before weighing in.
Trump is arguing for an early end to restrictions based on a mix of factors as cited by him in the two-hour-long new briefing: The mortality rate has not been as alarming as was initially feared, and the people and the country stood to lose more because of the shutdown than the illness.
There is also an argument, first presented by Dr Davit Katz, lead epidemiologist at Yale university, that focussing on the most vulnerable population, the elderly and those with underlying conditions, was a better alternative to locking down the entire country to protect everyone. “A pivot right now from trying to protect all people to focusing on the most vulnerable remains entirely plausible,” Katz argued in an Op-Ed in the New York Times. “With each passing day, however, it becomes more difficult.”
Close to 44,000 Americans have tested positive for Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and more than 550 have died as of Monday, an increase of more than 100 over the previous day, a stark reminder of the growing - not declining - public health crisis facing the United States. New York state is the worst hit with almost half of the positive cases countrywide, and the New York City and the region around it is the epicentre with the most alarming rate of spread.
Dr Birx said the New York metro area - the NYC region - was witnessing a virus “attack rate” of one in thousand, with is way above anywhere else in the United States.
“So to all of my friends and colleagues in New York, this is the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self-isolate at this time,” Dr Birx said. “Clearly, the virus had been circulating there for a number of weeks to have this level of penetrance into the general community.”