The novel coronavirus has claimed at least 458 lives in the United States according to the most recent statistics, and health experts are unyielding in their recommendation that the nation must adhere to an initial 15-day period of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
But President Donald Trump said last night that the government would reassess the recommended period for keeping businesses shuttered and workers home after this week, tweeting in all capital letters that, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.”
“AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” he added.
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
Both health experts and politicians believe ending the social distancing period would be the wrong move.
“I want America to understand: This week, it’s going to get bad,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during an appearance on NBC. “We really, really need everyone to stay at home. … There are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) argued that ending the social distancing period would result in more deaths nationwide.
“If you don’t slow this thing down, it will sacrifice a lot more on the other end of the equation, and we’ve got to think about the human cost here,” he said.
Economists have said the pandemic has set the world on the path for a recession. Greg Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics estimates output would fall 0.4 percent in the first quarter and 12 percent in the second.
“This is not just a blip,” said Daco. “We’ve never experienced something like this.”
The president’s message came as Republican and Democratic lawmakers butted heads over a massive stimulus package that Democrats have likened to a corporate bailout. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had initially proposed a procedural vote on the package timed for 9:45 a.m. today, but it was blocked by Democrats.
“I think there’s a good chance we’ll have an agreement. But we don’t need artificial deadlines. We will get this done. We will come in at noon and hopefully we will have an agreement by then,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
McConnell yesterday accused Democrats of “playing games” and scuttling the opportunity for a bipartisan deal.
“I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem,” he said last night, adding that “the notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd.”
A vote in the Senate is expected at 1 p.m.
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.