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What Trump's Early Return to Work May Look Like

It would likely be phased in by geography and health next month. Some still see doom.
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2020 11:23 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Trump is making clear that he wants to get the nation working again sooner rather than later—by Easter Sunday, to be exact. That has some in the business community happy, but others worried that easing up on restrictions will only worsen the coronavirus outbreak and damage the economy even more. Coverage, including what a return to normal routines might look like:

  • Trump's view: The president's mantra is that he doesn't want the cure to be worse than the ailment. "Trump and a chorus of conservative voices have begun to suggest that the shock to the economy could hurt the country more than deaths from the virus," per the New York Times.
  • Echoing that: Former Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein is in Trump's camp here. "Extreme measures to flatten the virus 'curve' is sensible—for a time—to stretch out the strain on health infrastructure," he tweets. "But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work."

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  • Opposing view: No, no, no, argues Jordan Weissmann at Slate. "This is an extremely dangerous line of thinking, and not just because it will likely lead to more casualties," he writes. "Encouraging Americans back to work before the virus is contained will not save the economy from catastrophe. Rather, it will set the country up to limp along, half-functioning as the pandemic spreads further." It's the worst of both worlds, he fears. Instead, he advocates a national lockdown for at least three weeks.
  • Phased return: Any return to normalcy would likely be phased in once the 15-day period Trump initially laid out ends on March 30. For example, the elderly or those with underlying health issues could be asked to remain in isolation, while healthier people would be encouraged to return to work. The guidelines could vary geographically, per CNN. More specifically, the White House could lift federal guidelines but allow states to act on their own.
  • Quarantine lite: At the Week, Joel Mathis thinks a "quasi-quarantine"—somewhere in the middle of the two opposing camps—is in our future. In reality, "shelter in place" orders can't last too long, he writes. But "it is still possible to maintain some level of social distancing and other healthy practices under such circumstances," he adds, citing a friend's Shanghai photos of a rooftop dinner party in which everyone was wearing safety masks.
  • Key advisers: "Remember that Trump has no public health professionals in his circle of informal advisers," writes Jonathan Swan at Axios. "Those are not his go-to calls when he's in the residence late at night. They’re all business or media folks."
  • 2 voices: Reaction to the idea isn't breaking down the way you might expect. Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, tweeted that Trump should listen to health experts, not economic ones. "There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus," he warned. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a frequent Trump critic, sounded closer to Trump's line of thinking. "You can't stop the economy forever," he said Monday. "So we have to start to think about does everyone stay out of work? Should young people go back to work sooner? Can we test for those who had the virus, resolved, and are now immune and can they start to go back to work?"
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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