President Trump has stated that he hopes to have the U.S. economy functioning as normal within weeks, rather than shutting the country down for several more months.
Critics who work in public health are concerned about his lack of commitment to keep the economy shut down for as long as it takes to get the virus outbreak totally under control. When asked about the possibility of keeping current restrictions in place for a lengthy period of time, he did not commit to an answer and simply said “we’ll see what happens.”
At the same time, New York, New Jersey, and Long Island emerged as the most affected areas in the country. Officials were concerned that the death tolls in the two states could start to skyrocket. Monday was the first time that the U.S. sustained over 100 deaths in a single day due to the virus. Data from Johns Hopkins University now shows that there have been over 44,000 confirmed cases along with over 500 deaths in the nation.
Trump spoke of certain states such as Nebraska, Idaho, and Iowa as spots that could see restrictions lifted much more quickly than other more developed areas. These rural states have not seen nearly as many cases of coronavirus as major coastal metro areas. He further stated that the United States is not structured to sustain long term shutdowns.
Other White House Officials at the briefing said that the American public has been doing a good job staying home as much as possible, along with taking other steps such as ordering take out food to help prevent the spread of the virus. Many of President Trump’s advisers have referred to this first phase of lockdown as a 15 day challenge, and the state of the outbreak will be re-evaluated in just over a week. Trump himself also suggested that he is only considering a timeline of weeks, rather than three or four months of social isolation and decreased economic activity as some others have suggested. Dr. Fauci, who is the head immunologist working with the White House, apparently does not agree with Trump’s assessment of a short economic slowdown. However, both do realize that the restrictive measures are placing a huge strain on the country and economy. Fauci was not present at the most recent meeting, possibly due to disagreements with other members of the White House staff.
Consistent drops in the stock market have created concerns that the solution of mass quarantines for extended periods of time could cause more problems than the virus itself. Suicides, substance abuse, homelessness, and other serious social problems have been associated with past economic downturns. Trump highlighted this point during the most recent press conference. Some believe that many Americans are already experiencing increased levels of anxiety and depression, and prolonged stress from these mental health problems can increase the risk of suicide or other drastic forms of behavior. During the 2008 recession, North American and Europe saw thousands more suicides than in prior years.
The mortality rate for coronavirus in China is believed to be around 1.4% based on the latest numbers, but it is impossible to accurately predict how many Americans may die in the coming weeks or months.