“Flattening the curve!” He wrote on Twitter Wednesday. Speaking to state and local leaders in an Oval Office telephone conversation later Wednesday, Trump said he was working to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
“We are making huge progress. You see that, “said Trump, according to the audio obtained by CNN. “You see what’s going on with the bump, the hill, whatever you call it, it’s really – we look very good. “
Officials said the options being discussed on reopening the country varied widely, ranging from recommendations on benchmarks for when individual states can begin to loosen restrictions to a national “big bang” that Trump has previewed Tuesday night on Fox News. Officials said the conversations are still preliminary and will likely evolve in the coming weeks.
The extent to which Trump can declare the country “reopened” remains limited. Federal government directives on shutting down businesses and restricting rallies were only recommendations, and decisions on how and when to reopen the country will be primarily the responsibility of the governors who have made mandatory home orders.
Americans themselves will also have to feel comfortable returning to crowded restaurants and workplaces before the economy returns to normal. A CNN poll released Wednesday found that 60% of Americans say they would feel uncomfortable resuming their usual routines if the social distancing guidelines were lifted after April 30, the current recommendation expiration date. Trump.
Still, as the data begins to show that the severity of the epidemic could peak soon, discussions have accelerated at working group meetings and split with the president over what a reopening might look like.
Many officials said this week that the talks could lead to a clash between economic and health advisers, who did not agree in the past month on the scope and duration of remote recommendations for Americans. .
One of the president’s main media advocates on Wednesday morning, Fox News host Laura Ingraham, tweeted, “At some point the president will have to look at Doctors Fauci and Birx and say that we will open the May 1. Give me your best advice on protocols, but we can no longer deprive our people of their fundamental freedoms. “
Officials also recognized that lingering problems with testing Americans and tracing epidemics could also delay a time when the federal government could recommend states return to normal.
More and more optimistic
Inside the White House, Trump and his collaborators have become increasingly optimistic that the country may soon take a turn, although health experts warn that it is far too early to declare the mission accomplished.
“Once we OPEN OUR GREAT COUNTRY, and sooner or later it will be, the horror of the invisible enemy, except those who have unfortunately lost a family member or friend, must be quickly forgotten . Our economy will explode, perhaps like never before !!! Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert, said that discussions on the subject of the reopening of the country took place late in the evening in the Roosevelt room of the White House on Tuesday evening.
“You don’t want to give up at a time that is premature, but right now, we’re clearly looking into whether, in fact, we are succeeding as much as we hope during the extended 30-day period that the president announced there has several days “- namely the extension of the period of restrictions and guidelines to the end of April – that if, in fact, we succeed, it makes sense to plan at least what a re-entry into normality would look like”, Fauci said in an interview with Fox News.
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to do it right now,” continued Fauci, “but it does mean that we have to be ready to adapt to it. “
The White House Coronavirus task force has been grappling with questions about what the “reopening” of the economy looks like. Some believe it may be a national event compared to others – including medical experts – who say that a staggered or “uneven” reopening by region or industry seems more prudent .
Preliminary planning has focused on how to geographically distinguish places that may reopen sooner, with the hope that hard-hit areas like New York will not open soon.
The task force assessed benchmarks that could indicate that a state is ready to ease restrictions on business and assembly, including a sustained 14-day reduction in the number of confirmed cases, normal operations returned to hospitals, and widely available tests.
As an example of some of the questions asked during the working group meetings, according to a source: “Do you reopen restaurants but force the bars to close on Friday evening so that they are not crowded?” “
Officials also weighed in recommending a certain spacing of restaurant tables or limits on the number of people allowed to be inside a particular establishment at any given time.
Some Trump advisers believe that rural or smaller cities are reopening in a shorter timeframe and want to focus on the best way to identify these areas. But other members of the team, and Trump himself, appear to be considering a more widespread announcement.
“We are looking at the concept where we open sections of the country and we are also looking at the concept where you open everything,” the president told Fox News Sean Hannity on Tuesday evening.
“I would love to open with a big bang, a beautiful country and just open,” he said. “It is very possible. “
A central obstacle for the administration remains the availability of generalized tests, which Trump’s health experts recognize are still a problem. Many inside the White House fear that the ongoing fight to speed up testing may hamper reopening efforts.
While tests have increased rapidly since the first difficult days of the epidemic, many states have yet tested only small percentages of their populations.
The White House has worked to develop a more robust testing strategy, including sending new rapid tests developed by Abbott Laboratories to the United States. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx pleaded with public health officials at a briefing on Tuesday to get their Abbott test devices online.
The White House has also worked to step up serological testing, which is used to detect antibodies that would identify people who are likely to be immune to the coronavirus and who may return to work or other aspects of normal life.
“It will tell you, if you have had any, are you probably immune to it, and are you really very safe to go back to work and don’t risk exposing other people,” said Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, in an interview on Fox Business. Giroir was responsible for leading the testing efforts. “You will see these tests mix up over the next month, but we will still be actively monitoring people who may have the active virus. “
CNN’s Jim Acosta and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.