President Donald Trump insisted Monday night that he’s looking to “open up our country” in weeks and not months as the United States continues to face the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now,” Trump said at a briefing with the White House coronavirus task force. “We’re going to be opening up our country, and we’re going to be watching certain areas.”
The president’s comments came as there remains no clear end in sight to the health crisis that has greatly impacted much of American life. Schools districts across the country have been closed for weeks, and on Monday Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered that schools in his state would be closed through the end of the current academic year.
Throughout his Monday press briefing, the president frequently touted a quick bounce back from the virus even though there is no clear evidence the United States has turned a corner in beating the virus or the disease it causes, COVID-19.
Emphasizing “tremendous responsibility,” Trump ticked off a list of concerns about the length of the healthcare crisis: jobs, people with “tremendous anxiety and depression,” as well as suicides.
“You have death, probably and I mean definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus,” Trump said. “So we have a double obligation.”
After touting his administration’s response during press briefings last week, Trump began to signal on Twitter late Sunday night that the White House could soon make a major policy shift as many Americans practice social distancing and do their best to avoid the virus.
“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump tweeted. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”
The president repeated that line on Monday evening, insisting “America will again and soon be open for business” and he’s “not going to let the cure be worse than the problem.”
“This two week period has been good,” Trump said. “I’m not saying it ends at that time. We have another seven days or so. I’m not saying it ends at that time. But I am saying, it’s been like this incredible learning process. That’s going to go into the future.”
Trump continued to emphasize that he would open up the country, but hotspots could be monitored.
“We’re going to be watching New York, and we’re going to be watching California, we’re going to be watching the state of Washington and other places, Illinois is becoming a hot spot,” he said. “And we can do both. Now, we may quarantine, I mean we will be quarantining many people in these areas.”
Trump also announced Monday that he has signed an executive order to ban the hoarding of crucial medical supplies and equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. That would include face masks, hand sanitizers and personal protective equipment. He added that his administration wants to prevent price gouging.
Attorney General William Barr said the administration has begun to see evidence of potential hoarding and price gouging. No items have been designated at this point, he said.
He said this is not targeted at consumers or businesses stockpiling for their own operations. It’s aimed at people hoarding “on an industrial scale for the purpose of “manipulating the market.”
“If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something you have to worry about,” Barr said. “But if you are sitting on a warehouse with masks, surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”
Trump also announced that his administration was postponing the deadline for compliance with real I.D. requirements. Those changes to Americans’ drivers licenses would have impacted the necessary document they would have needed to board flights in the United States.
Time and time again during the briefing, the president made it sound like the country could handle both recovering from the virus and returning to life as it was before it on a more optimistic scale than seems possible as medical supply shortages and health care fears continue to dominate the news.
“We can do two things at one time,” Trump said.