President Donald Trump has reiterated that he wants the U.S. to get back to work as quickly as possible, starting with parts of the country which so far have the fewest confirmed cases of COVID-19.
This week Trump said he wanted businesses to reopen by Easter and for social distancing measures to be eased, which has been deemed unrealistic by some scientific experts. But on Thursday, Trump doubled down on his wish, telling Fox News' anchor Sean Hannity he believed it could start in less affected areas of the U.S. before being rolled out across the country.
"It's a very bad situation, we haven't seen anything like it but the end result is we got to get back to work and I think we can start by opening up certain parts of the country, you know, the farm belt, certain parts of the Midwest, other places.
"I think we can open up sections, quadrants, and then just keep them going until the whole country's opened up, but we have to open because people want to get back to work.. that's the way we are engineered," the president said in Thursday's phone interview.
He said that "as an example... there are places in Texas... that aren't impacted by this."
"You take some of these great states, like Iowa, you take a look at Idaho, you take a look at Nebraska...and you take a look at some states... they have it under control... they are watching it... they immediately put people in quarantine."
Trump's optimism was at odds with his expert adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, who told CNN also on Thursday that in 19 out of 50 states where there were fewer than 200 cases each, medical personnel still had to be "aggressive" in identifying, isolating and contact tracing to stop its spread.
He added that the president's wish to reopen by Easter was "an aspirational projection to give people some hope."
Trump would have limited legal powers to direct a reopening. The closures of schools, restaurants and gathering places were ordered by state and local officials who would not be obliged to follow a presidential order.
Robert Tsai, a constitutional expert and law professor at American University told The Hill, "The president could not simply order local schools or businesses to reopen. He can't countermand state and local governments, which have significant 'police power' to deal with its citizens' health, welfare, and morals," he added. Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.
The U.S. has overtaken China as the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, at over 85,000. There have been almost 1,300 deaths and over 750 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and recoveries as of March 26.
World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.
- Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
- Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
- If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
- Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.
Mask and glove usage
- Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
- Do not reuse single-use masks.
- Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
- The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.