Trump Confronted on Justification for Easter Target Date to Restart Economy: ‘I Just Thought It Was a Beautiful Time’


President Donald Trump offered no specifics as to why he was tentatively targeting Easter as the date to end widespread social distancing measures and broadly restart the American economy, saying that “I just though it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline.”

Trump, who has abruptly pivoted to getting people back to work in the near future even as the number of new cases and deaths continues to rise steeply, was confronted at Tuesday’s coronavirus task force briefing by CNN White House correspondent Kaitlin Collins about such an aggressive, accelerated move.

“Mr. President, you just reiterated that you hoped to have the country opened by Easter,” Collins noted. “You said earlier you would like to see churches packed on that day. My question is you have two doctors on stage with you. Have either of them told you that’s a realistic timeline?”

“I think we’re looking at a timeline. We’re discussing it,” Trump said wandering around a direct answer. “We had a very good meeting today. If you add it all up, that’s probably nine days plus another two and a half weeks. It’s a period of time that is longer than the original two weeks. So we’re going to look at it. We’ll only do it if it’s good, and maybe do sections of the country. We do large sections of the country that could be too. We’re very much in touch with [Dr.] Tony [Fauci] and with [Dr.] Deborah [Birx] on everything we’re doing.”

“Who suggested Easter? Who suggested that date?” Collins pressed.

“I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline,” Trump said, strongly suggesting he simply picked the day off the calendar instead of based on metrics like number of tests completed of the rates of transmission or deaths.

“So that wasn’t based on any of the data…?” Collins cut in.

“It was based on a certain level of weeks from the time we started,” Trump said, effectively confirming that his target was not predicated on events on the ground. “And it happened to arrive, actually we were thinking in terms of sooner. I’d love to see it come even sooner. But I just think it would be a beautiful timeline.”

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl then followed up on Collins’ line of questioning.

“Mr. President, if you look at what we’ve seen in the last day or so, you’ve seen the number of known coronavirus cases in the country double in just two days. Another 95 people have died just in the last 24 hours,” he pointed out. “New York’s governor said this is spreading like a bullet train across the country. And the governor of Louisiana is saying that his state may not be able to handle the cases that they’re facing by early April. So what are you seeing in all of this that leads you to think that we can reopen by Easter or earlier?”

“We’re working with all of them. We can be talking about large sections of our country because there are sections of our country that we didn’t talk about that are doing unbelievably well,” he claimed. “They have very little incidents or problem, very small numbers. It’s very possible they won’t be ever subject to what’s happening in New York.”

Moments later, Fox News’ John Roberts pressed the Trump administration’s infectious diseases expert, Dr. Fauci, on the medical reasoning behind allowing mass gatherings and restarting the economy in just 19 days.

‘That’s really very flexible. We just had a conversation with the president in the Oval Office talking you can look at a date, but you have to be very flexible. On a literally day by day and week by week, you need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do,” Fauci said, striking a very different, less sanguine tone than Trump about the prospect of an Easter return to normal. “When you look at the country, obviously no one is going to want to tone down things when you see what’s going on in a place like New York City. I mean, that’s just good public health practice and common sense.”

“If we do the kind of testing that we’re doing, and test will always be identified by identification, isolation, and contact tracing , you may find there are areas that are very different from other areas of the country, you may not want to essentially treat it as just one force for the entire country, but look at flexibility in different areas. So I think people might get the misinterpretation you’re just going lift everything up. And even somebody is going like that, that’s not going to happen.”

“It’s going to be looking at the data. And what we don’t have right now, that we really do need, is we need to know what’s going on in those areas of the country where there isn’t an obvious outbreak,” Fauci added, pointing out that low incidence of infection in other areas in the country could present a false positive if there hasn’t been sufficient testing. “Is there nothing underneath the surface that says ‘Wait a minute, you better be careful and really clamp down,’ or what looks there’s that you don’t really have to be as harsh as you are in other areas.”

Watch the video above, via MSNBC.

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