President Donald Trump said Monday that he, not state governors, would soon decide whether to reopen the United States to commerce as health experts voiced optimism that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in the country may soon be over.
In the U.S., 42 of the 50 state governors have imposed stay-at-home edicts as the virus swept through the country. Trump recommended physical distancing between Americans through the end of April but is considering whether to reopen the country fully or partly on May 1.
While news stories in the U.S. have suggested it would be up to the governors to decide when to lift their own orders for their states, Trump said on Twitter, “Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.”
Trump said, “It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”
Top U.S. health experts voiced cautious optimism that the ravaging coronavirus outbreak in the country is slowing.
“In the midst of tragedy, there IS hope,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Twitter.
He said the western states of California and Washington “remain stable” in the number of new cases. Adams said New York and New Jersey in the eastern U.S. and the cities of Detroit in the Midwest and New Orleans in the South “appear to be leveling off.”
“Social distancing and mitigation IS working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel,” Adams said, as he urged Americans to continue to keep themselves away from others by at least two meters.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC’s “Today” show, “We are nearing the peak right now. Sometime, hopefully this week. You know when you’re at the peak when the next day is actually less than the day before. We are stabilizing across the country right now in terms of the state of this outbreak.”
But Redfield, like other government health officials, voiced concerns about reopening the country to commerce and a sense of normalcy on May 1, the date Trump is considering.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the country’s director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday there is “extraordinary risk” of the further spread of the coronavirus if life in the U.S. returns to normalcy too soon.
Redfield said, “I think it’s important to look at the country as many different separate situations. We’re looking at the data county by county by county.”
“Clearly the things that need to happen for the reopening is what’s happening with the numbers of new cases,” he said. “We’ve got to substantially augment our public health capacity to do early case identification, isolation and contact tracing. And obviously make sure we have the medical and hospital capacity. And really start working to build confidence” in communities across the country, so they have “confidence to reopen.”
“There’s no doubt that we have to reopen correctly,” to avoid a resurgence in the coronavirus in July and August, Redfield said. “It’s going to be a step by step, gradual process. It’s got to be data driven.”
Their assessment came as the U.S. death toll continues to increase, topping 22,000, with 558,000 confirmed cases.
Redfield said that the mortality rate, “while sadly still too high, was far less than we anticipated” because of social distancing.
Trump in January, February and half of March minimized the severity of the coronavirus threat after the first outbreak in China before declaring a national emergency in mid-March. On several occasions, he said there were few cases in the U.S. and that the disease would quickly dwindle to nothing.
Some Trump advisers warned him of the advancing threat, but Sunday on Twitter, Trump appeared peeved at Fauci’s assessment in a CNN interview Sunday that “obviously” the country’s response could have been better.
“It would have been better if we had a head start,” Fauci said. “Often the recommendation (of scientists and medical experts) is taken, sometimes it is not.”
He said the country’s high death toll “may have been a little bit different” if the U.S. had moved quicker toward social distancing and stay-at-home edicts.
Trump retweeted a supporter’s assessment that Fauci should be fired, although Fauci has continued to appear alongside the president at White House coronavirus news conferences.
On Monday afternoon, the White House rebuffed talk that Fauci might be ousted.
“This media chatter is ridiculous,” Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci.”
Gidley concluded, “Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted advisor to President Trump.”