“We’re not going to close the country; we’re going to put out the fires,” the president said Thursday

By Ally Mauch
May 22, 2020 03:06 PM
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President Donald Trump
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If Donald Trump had his way, he reiterated this week, states would not revert to widespread shutdowns if there is a future outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The president's comments, which came while speaking with reporters during a tour of a Ford factory in Michigan on Thursday, returned him to a major topic of coronavirus strategy: how and how quickly to reopen after states instituted widespread social distancing in mid March.

While the federal government supported those moves, Trump has since openly wrestled with how long shutdowns should continue — largely because of how the economy has been harmed. (He sees a robust economy as key to his re-election campaign.)

Trump, 73, has also sparred with governors, who ultimately have authority over stay-at-home orders, as he's repeatedly said the decision is his and not theirs.

"You don't become king because there's a national emergency," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded during one such spat in April.

On Thursday, Trump answered questions about whether he was concerned about a potential second wave of coronavirus cases, which some federal health officials have warned could be more problematic if it overlapped with flu season.

“People say that’s a very distinct possibility,” he said of a second large outbreak. “It’s standard. And we’re going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country; we’re going to put out the fires.”

Earlier, Trump repeated his previous argument that the unemployment and economic slowdown from shutdowns should not become worse than the virus itself, and he called on governors to “start opening up.”

As of Friday, nearly 100,000 people had been killed by the virus, according to available data.

While many states have been widely easing their restrictions, others are taking a more cautious approach. Health officials say robust testing and contact tracing are key, along with continual decrease in infections, to be confident in moving toward reopening.

The president on Thursday did not mention any states or governors in particular, but he showed disapproval toward states that have followed a “very rigid pattern” in not reopening quickly.

“I think they’re going to stop,” he said. “I don’t think the people are going to stand for it. This is a country that’s meant to be open, not closed.”

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In April, California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of a coronavirus resurgence when asked if he could say the worst was over in his state.

"No, because if we all pull back, we could see a second wave that makes this pale in comparison," Newsom said during an appearance on CBS News. "I can't say that. Honestly, that's determined by the act of 40 million Californians stepping in, continuing to meet this moment."

Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine expressed similar worries about a second wave, telling a local news station that he believes the coronavirus “is here for a very long time.”

When asked whether Ohioans would support future shutdowns if there was a second wave, DeWine said then: “If they believe that I’m doing it based on the best facts that we can come up with, I think that they will be willing to go along with that.”

“I think we have to assume this virus is here for a very long time,” DeWine continued. “We don’t know what summer will bring — whether we get any kind of break. We don’t know whether this comes back. If you look at the pandemic of 1918, the second wave was worse than the first wave, and so I don’t know what’s ahead of us. I just know that if we respect this virus, if we go after it as much as we can, if we keep the social distancing, if we wear the mask, we will be in a position to battle it.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
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Dr. Anthony Fauci

Medical officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said that more waves are likely.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told The Washington Post he has “no doubt” that the U.S. will see outbreaks in the future.

“The virus is not going to disappear,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a highly transmissible virus. At any given time, it’s some place or another. As long as that’s the case, there’s a risk of resurgence.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that when you pull back mitigation, you’re going to start seeing cases crop up here and there,” Fauci said in April. “If you’re not able to handle them, you’re going to see another peak, a spike, and then you almost have to turn the clock back to go back to mitigation.”

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