President Donald Trump wanted to open the country back up by Easter, but Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that the White House Coronavirus Task Force the president put in place convinced him that the country needed more time to fight the virus before that could happen.
On Sunday, Trump announced that he would extend social distancing guidelines set to end on Monday until April 30. He predicted that the outbreak would peak in about two weeks, then begin to decline.
The president said he was confident the country would be “well on our way to recovery” by June 1, a far cry from his previously hoped-for Easter deadline to lift restrictions.
“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” Trump said during the press briefing. “That would be the greatest loss of all.”
Fauci: Task force prevailed
Trump was talked into the additional month of distancing by his task force including Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence, and Dr. Deborah Birx, Fauci said.
“We felt that if we prematurely pulled back, we would only form an acceleration or rebound of something, which would put you behind where you were before, and that’s a reason why we argued strongly with the president that he not withdraw those guidelines,” Fauci said in an interview, the Hill reported.
“He did listen,” Fauci said.
The federal social distancing protocol of cancelling nonessential travel, limiting groups to 10 people and practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet between people is only a recommendation and a guideline rather than a requirement, but many state and local governments are taking their cues from those recommendations.
In at least two-thirds of the country, non-essential businesses are closed, restaurants are doing takeout and delivery only, and schools have been closed.
Poll numbers falter
While Trump is rightly worried about the potentially disastrous effect of another month of shutdowns on the national economy, Americans seem to favor extending social distancing until the virus has peaked and begins to decline.
Six percent fewer Americans thought Trump was handling the coronavirus response well in a Hill/HarrisX poll after he started talking about reopening the economy by Easter, down to 46% from a previous high of 52% just days before that announcement.
Trump is in a difficult position as he tries to balance economic recovery with reassuring a public whose fear about rising numbers of cases and deaths is being stoked daily, even hourly, by the media and increasing anecdotal, unverified social media reports about equipment shortages at hospitals.