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Trump wants U.S. reopened by Easter, but chief disease specialist urges flexibility

President Trump said America averages nearly 37,000 influenza deaths annually, yet widespread economic shutdown doesn't occur for typical flu

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Updated: March 24, 2020 - 7:42pm

President Trump said Tuesday that the typical influenza and car accidents claim far more lives annually than the coronavirus has to date and that the U.S. economy needs to reopen quickly to avoid falling into a severe and prolonged recession.


The president also said that the country will remain in an economic shutdown beyond the 15-day period of nationwide “social distancing” to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We’ll stay a little bit longer than that,” Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall with other members of the White House coronavirus task force. “I would love to have it open by Easter.”

Trump said without a quick economic reopening of the country, “you’re going to have suicides by the thousands,” along with widespread instability.

“The faster we go back, the better it's going to be,” Trump said. “You can destroy a country this way by closing it down.”

“Our people are full of vim and vigor and energy,” he continued. “We had the best economy in the history of our country three weeks ago, and then all of a sudden we're supposed to shut down.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the coronavirus press conference on Tuesday evening that the timeline should be "flexible."

Trump said the United States has averaged 37,000 deaths a year due to influenza, yet the nation does not undergo a widespread shutdown.

“I never heard of such a thing. We’ve lost as many as 78,000 one year,” Trump aid. “We lose much more than that to automobile accidents," yet, Trump noted that no president has asked the automobile industry entirely shut down because of auto fatalities. 

Trump said his healthcare policy experts told him, “ ‘We’re going to have to close down the country.’ This has never been done before. We’ve had flus before. We’ve had viruses before. …I accept things, I understand things very quickly,” Trump continued. “But we can socially distance and still go to work.”

Trump said the social distancing for coronavirus has produced important public awareness about rethinking widespread shaking of hands and the importance of washing hands.

Trump also said he rejected a bill proposal from House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi for a $2.5 trillion coronavirus economic-stimulus plan that would include green energy perks, which he called “problems,” and nearly doubled the projected cost in the existing Senate bill.    

"I cancelled the deal last night. Nancy Pelosi came and put a lot of things in the deal that had nothing to do with the workers,” Trump said. “I said 'I'm not signing this.'” 

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