Trump lays groundwork to end pandemic lockdown 'in beautiful, little pieces'

'I’m not going to put any pressure on any governor to open up,' Trump said Tuesday.

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President Trump at April 13, 2020 coronavirus task force briefing
President Trump at April 13, 2020 coronavirus task force briefing
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Updated: April 14, 2020 - 11:18pm

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The Trump administration is working with state governors to plan a gradual, phased re-opening of the U.S. economy after a widespread shutdown caused by the pandemic. Some states could start the process before May 1, officials said.

"We’ll open it up in beautiful, little pieces," an optimistic President Trump declared Tuesday.

Policymakers put in place widespread “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing” orders in mid-March as the coronavirus ravaged the world. Though the infection rate has slowed in recent days, on Tuesday the U.S. coronavirus death toll was above 26,000 with nearly 614,000 confirmed coronavirus infection cases. 

“We have one country, but we have lots of different pieces. It’s a puzzle,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. “We have beautiful pieces, beautiful states with capable governors. They know when it’s time to open. And we don’t want to put pressure on anybody. I’m not going to put any pressure on any governor to open. I’m not going to say to Governor Cuomo ‘You gotta open within seven days.’ I want him to take his time, do it right, and then open New York.”

Trump cited Cuomo specifically because of criticism from the New York governor, who slammed the president as “King Trump” after the president claimed on Monday he had “total” authority to re-open the country after the coronavirus subsides.

However, Trump also warned Tuesday that he would still be putting pressure on governors if they failed to manage their states well.

“We’re going to have some very strong recommendations for the governors,” Trump said. “We’re going to work with the governors. The governors are going to do a good job. And if they don’t do a good job, we’re going to come down on them very hard. We’ll have no other choice.”

Trump said he was pleased that some governors have said they are already prepared to open and could open even now or prior to the April 30 date recommended by the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) to maintain “social distancing.”   

"The day will be very close, because certain states, as you know, are in much different condition and in a much different place than other states," Trump said. "It's going to be very very close, maybe even before the date of May 1. So that will be for some states. Actually, there are over 20 that are in extremely good shape, and we think we're going to be able to get them open fairly quickly. And then others will follow. The federal government will be watching them very closely."

Reports indicate that the CDC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are planning a re-opening phase by mid-May that ensures there would be widespread availability of testing kits and personal protective equipment. The CDC and FEMA also reportedly are seeking additional emergency funding. 

Trump said the coronavirus mortality models showing a significant slowdown in deaths were based on maintaining “social distancing” until May 1 and concerns that some states opening too quickly would be monitored.

“I’m not easing up, first of all, we’ll have guidelines even for the states that open,” Trump said. “Plus, they will have to adhere to guidelines until a certain point into the future when the enemy is vanquished.”

Trump said that even states that opened early would still be subject to some additional CDC guidelines that would not be business as usual but their quicker opening date was based on fewer risk factors, including population density.

“Some of that will stay in effect, much of that will stay in effect for a period of time, but the reason also is there are different kinds of states. They have lots of room, they have fewer people, and they have lots of room. And that’s one of the primary reasons.”

Trump on Tuesday slammed congressional Democrats for failing to pass a “clean” funding bill to help shore up small businesses since the funding in the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed in March appears to be drying up quickly as firms apply for relief. “We want to take care of our workers,” Trump said. “We’ll worry about other things and other pet projects of Democrats-- and also Republicans-- later. The money will be expired and we could use a refill for the workers. We want to be able to make sure that small businesses stay open, and I think that’ll happen.”

Trump said one way private firms can ensure workplace safety is to regularly test their employees for coronavirus and other indicators. “Now I think that companies can do testing on a maybe weekly basis, you don’t have to do it every day with the same worker,” Trump said. “But they can do testing, they can do temperature gauges, they can do a lot of different things. And you know we’re only talking about for a period of time.” 

The White House sent reporters a list of just over 200 leaders listed members of what the White House called "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups," including CEOs and other leaders from finance, technology, health care, think tanks, and economics.  

The Revival Industry Groups also included leaders from the sports industry, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

“You know, eventually, we want to get back to where we were,” Trump said. “We want people actually sitting next to each other in ball games, eventually. You know we’re not going to rip out every other seat in baseball stadiums and football stadiums. We want to go back to where we were. I want people to understand that.” 

The Revival Industry Groups also included leaders from the hotel, restaurant and other hospitality industries. “Eventually, we’re going back, where restaurants that had 150 seats are going to have 150 seats, not 50 seats cause they can’t make it in 50 seats,” Trump said.

The president said he was reviewing re-opening models from around the world to monitor best practices. “We have looked at every country that’s opened, some successfully, some okay,” Trump said. “No total disaster, but some okay. And some have to go back to the hotspot and fix the hot spot. We think we’re going to do it very successfully.”

The White House listed economist Art Laffer as a member of the "Thought Leaders" Revival Industry Group.

In an interview with Just the News, Laffer praised the approach in Austria, where smaller stores re-opened Tuesday, larger ones are scheduled to open May 1 and restaurants and hotels waiting until mid-May.

“I think the Austrians are doing a great job,” Laffer said. “They’re handling it in a very rational, clear-eyed way of trying to make good decisions to make it so that the least risk is taken while the economy is being opened. And they are looking at the types of stores, they’re looking at the size of stores, they're looking at the risk factors of the people involved and trying to make clear-eyed, good decisions based on data and numbers.

"We know who’s really susceptible to coronavirus, and we know those people should in fact not be put into crowds right now. And we know what people have already got immunities, what people have low risk, and we should make those decisions based upon good science,” he added.

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