President Trump’s goal to reopen businesses shuttered by the coronavirus by Easter – April 12 – is not “a hard and fast rule or target,” his top economic adviser said.
In a Wednesday interview with The Hill, White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Trump’s desire to restore normal commercial activity by Easter was “an aspirational target,” insisting that the president would not rush efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
“We don’t want to destroy the economy. On the other hand, we’ve got to take care of the health and safety of all Americans,” Kudlow said in a phone interview Wednesday evening. “To me, the two should go together. They go hand in hand. Health safety; economic safety. Health security; economic security.”
Trump has said this week that he would like “have large sections of the country” open up by Easter and expressed a desire to see “packed churches” on the holiday despite warnings from public health officials that such a timeline would be unfeasible.
“I just thought it was a beautiful time,” Trump said Tuesday of the Easter target date. “It was based on a certain level of weeks from the time we started.”
Trump’s comments followed a week of intense debate among his economic and health advisors about the dangers of advocating for the lift of social distancing protocols as the coronavirus pandemic accelerates within the U.S.
There are more than 65,000 confirmed cases of and 926 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, within the U.S. as of Wednesday night, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said Trump’s timeline should be “flexible” and on a “literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis.”
The spread of the lethal respiratory illness has forced businesses across the U.S. to shutter, likely causing millions of layoffs and plunging the U.S. into its deepest economic downturn since at least 2008.
Economists say that while the economic toll of mitigating the virus will be dire, the cost of taking insufficient action to slow its spread would be far worse. Members of Congress and governors in both parties have also pushed back on Trump’s Easter target.
Kudlow said Wednesday night that the president’s economic team is crunching numbers to see how feasible it is to achieve Trump’s goal. That process involves Kevin Hassett, the former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) who rejoined the White House economic team as an informal advisor.
“There’s certainly a clamor to somehow open the economy back up,” Kudlow said. “But we can’t do that unless we’re certain that people are safe.”