Trump starts national debate over when to reopen economy

There have been few politicians more loyal to Donald Trump than Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina who has been the President’s most prominent advocate on everything from Supreme Court candidates to removal.

But on the most critical issue facing the White House now, Graham has visibly broken with his president: the opportunity to start reopening the U.S. economy despite the international medical agreement that a prolonged foreclosure is essential for stop the coronavirus pandemic.

“Try to manage an economy where large hospitals are overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they cannot help everyone, and every moment of heartbreaking medical chaos is played out in our living rooms, television, on social media, and shown all over the world, “said Graham wrote on Twitter.

“There is no economy that works unless you control the virus.”

Trump opened the debate on how to balance the US economy and public health on Monday, suggesting that in 15 days he could reverse the federal government’s recommendations that Americans remain isolated because of the damage done. to economic activity.

“We can’t let the cure be worse than the problem,” said Trump, as the stock markets shrugged their shoulders at an even more dramatic intervention by the Federal Reserve.

Many of Trump’s supporters allies have supported his call to rethink the effects of the foreclosure, especially since Herculean central bank efforts to reverse massive job losses and avoid financial turmoil have so far failed. no visible impact.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican, sparked outrage Monday when he told Fox News that he and other older Americans would be ready to “take a chance” [his] survival “to ensure the recovery of the economy.

“My message is that we are going to go back to work, go back to life,” said Patrick. “Let’s be smart about it, and those of us over the age of 70 will take care of us. But don’t sacrifice the country.”

The question has created strange political companions, transcending the normal partisan cleavages that came to define Washington politics in the Trump era. The mixed alliances are partly explained by the growing pressure from business leaders, some of whom are pressuring political leaders of all stripes to adopt a more nuanced approach.

Gary Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs who was previously Trump’s best economic adviser, spoke on behalf of many on Wall Street, arguing for the need to “normalize” the economy. “The decision will be difficult but it must be made,” he said.

Public health professionals are also increasingly suggesting that a more targeted approach like that adopted by South Korea – where mass tests identify all infected people so that only Covid-19 patients are forced to isolation – could be more effective in controlling the pandemic and restarting the economy at the same time.

“You have to walk and chew gum in life. . . It is unsustainable to lead this state or to lead this country with the economic closure, “said Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic Governor of New York, who has become one of Trump’s most prominent leaders on the coronavirus crisis.

Cuomo has stepped up testing in New York City to levels that per capita surpass those in South Korea.

Large-scale testing has sent New York case numbers to alarming levels; the total of 20,875 now rivals countries like France and Iran. But Cuomo quoted public health experts as Monday calling for “risk stratification,” a process that would allow young workers and those who have developed Covid-19 immunity to return to work.

At his White House press conference, Trump said it was a “balancing act” and that leaving the decision entirely to the doctors would be a mistake.

“If it depended only on the doctors, they would say shut it up … for a few years,” he said. “We can’t do that. And you can “do this with a country, especially with the world’s largest economy.”

There is little consensus among health experts on whether to reopen the economy until it is clear that the spread of the disease has been reduced.

Lawrence Goslin, professor of public health at Georgetown University, said that Trump’s assertion that the United States may soon ease its aggressive mitigation was “completely irresponsible” and contrary to the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“I believe this statement is flawed on several levels and sends exactly the wrong message, suggesting that we can return to near normal life in a matter of weeks,” said Goslin.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the trusted faces of the White House coronavirus task force, told an interviewer this weekend that he was sometimes in disagreed with the way Mr. Trump described the situation, but added, “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push it down.”

Charlie Cook, a political analyst, said that Trump may not be thinking about his election prospects, but that the prudent way would be to listen to Mr. Fauci’s team. Asked how long it would take to get the hang of it, Deborah Birx, another respected scientist in the White House task force, said the only indications were the trajectories in China and South Korea, which experienced this which she described as 8 to 10 week curves. .

“If the situation gets worse it will be as if the UK is going through the Blitz, plague and depression at the same time,” said Cook.

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi

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