‘We have another eight weeks until we see our peak infection rate…’
(Liberty Headlines) Governors across the nation on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s timeline for reopening the U.S. economy, as they continued to impose more restrictions on travel and public life in an attempt to curb the spread of the Wuhan virus.
The dismissal of Trump’s hope for a mid-April timeframe for a national reopening came from leaders struggling to manage hot spots of the outbreak and those still bracing for the worst. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the head of the National Governors Association and a NeverTrump Republican, called the messaging confusing since most leaders are still focused on enforcing the restrictions, not easing them. He accused the White House of running on a schedule made of some “imaginary clock.”
In most cases state leaders — not the federal government — are responsible for both imposing and lifting the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions intended to stop the contagion.
The president is eager to get the U.S. back to work as the crisis takes an economic toll. The damage could be worse than the death toll from the virus, he has said. As soon as next week, Trump wants to take another look at recommendations about business closures and self-isolation, and said Tuesday the country could reopen by Easter Sunday — less than a month away.
“Our people want to return to work,” he said.
But some governors suggested that view had little connection to the reality they’re facing, although infection rate increases are merely a reflection of more diagnoses because more tests for the virus are now available. California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said he and Trump are “clearly operating under a different set of assumptions.” California, home to 40 million people and the world’s fifth-largest economy, reported hundreds of new known cases of COVID 19 and now has more than 2,200, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said the infection rate was doubling every three days and pleaded for more federal help as the number of cases in the state surpassed 20,000.
“If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it’s no contest. No American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life,” Cuomo told reporters Tuesday. “Job one has to be save lives. That has to be the priority.”
Some of Trump’s allies are continuing to move ahead with tighter controls on travel, commerce and mobility. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed stay-at-home orders that continued to spread through the biggest cities, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is stressing limiting business activity, not relaxing them.
“This situation is not going to be over in a week,” said Noem, whose state has more than two dozen cases. “We have another eight weeks until we see our peak infection rate.”
The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities. The orders closing schools, restaurants and businesses have largely come from a patchwork of local and state governments — with areas hit hardest imposing the most restrictions, while other communities are still weighing tighter rules.
That means the White House is eyeing ways to ease the advisories while some areas are still ramping up their responses — a mixed message that some governors worried would lead Americans to ignore the orders of local officials.
Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told WWMT-TV/Sinclair Broadcast Group that Trump’s “off-the-cuff statements are really going to undermine our ability to protect people.” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, said Trump was “not taking into account the true damage that this will do to our country if we see truly millions of people die.”
Trump has defended his handling of the outbreak and argued that his administration is doing all it can to help governors.
“They shouldn’t be hitting us,” he said on Fox News. “The fact is we’ve done a lot.”
Among the statehouse leaders to publicly endorse Trump’s view was Texas’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, 69, who on Monday suggested that people his age and older can “take care of ourselves ” as the nation gets back to work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people over 65 are at higher risk for the disease.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.