At his daily coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday, Donald Trump declared that the United States is now “near the end of our historic battle” with the deadly pandemic. He also repeated his claim made earlier in the day that he hoped that the U.S. economy would be “open” by Easter, which falls on April 12.
Also on Tuesday, the United States saw 133 new deaths and more than 9,200 new coronavirus cases, according to the population data site Worldometers. The total number of reported cases in the U.S. now exceeds 53,000 with 687 fatalities, making the country the third hardest-hit in the world, trailing only China and Italy.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease specialist at the National Institutes of Health, also spoke at the press briefing and appeared to walk back Trump’s claim that the country could be “open” by Easter, as quoted by a CNN report.
“You can look at a date but you gotta be very flexible,” Fauci told reporters when asked whether he also believed that April 12 was a plausible date to lift “social distancing” restrictions designed to prevent person-to-person transmission of the deadly virus.
Fauci said that some areas of the U.S. that have been only lightly affected may be ready to lift restrictions by the Easter holiday. But New York City — the most populous city in the country and center of the financial industry — would not be among those ready to be open, he added.
Trump: There is tremendous hope as "we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel"
Johns Hopkins data: pic.twitter.com/XSMhE5yXED
— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) March 24, 2020
According to Dr. Deborah Birx, speaking at Tuesday’s White House briefing, “about 56 percent of all the cases in the U.S. are coming out of that [New York] metro area,” as quoted by CNN. She said that she was “deeply concerned” about the rate of infection in New York City, adding that anyone who has been in the city recently should now self-quarantine for 14 days after leaving it, due to the significant chance of contracting coronavirus.
Trump was also not clear — and was not asked by reporters — what he meant by his plan to “reopen” the nation’s economy. According to a report by Business Insider, the federal government has not imposed any shutdown or stay-at-home orders, meaning that there are no actions that the president could take to reopen the economy.
Instead, state and local governments have imposed all of the business closure and stay-at-home orders now in effect across the country.
Trump and the federal government have no constitutional authority to lift those state and local orders, according to the BI analysis.
“Is he going to sue them? Send mean tweets?” asked Vox.com Editor Ezra Klein on Twitter, as quoted by BI. “What action is being proposed here?”