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Trump weighs scaling back social distancing guidelines

With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter, as he weighs how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Posted: Mar 24, 2020 2:11 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2020 3:07 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter, as he weighs how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As many public health officials call for stricter, not looser restrictions on public interactions, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall.

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities.

“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said during the virtual town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die from the seasonal flu or in automobile accidents and “we don’t turn the country off.”

“We’ll assess at that time and we’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up,” he added. “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”

The reassessment comes as the White House is encouraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package to ease the financial pain for Americans and hard-hit industries.

Appearing before the president at the virtual town hall, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump has asked for recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force for how he can send people back to work while minimizing the public health risk. He said Trump wants to find a way “to open America back up.”

Trump’s enthusiasm for getting people back to work comes as he takes stock of the political toll the outbreak is taking. It sets up a potential conflict with medical professionals, including many within his government, who have called for more social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, not fewer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told WMAL on Tuesday that Trump has always heeded his recommendations.

“The president has listened to what I have said and to what the other people on the task force have said, when I have made recommendations he has taken them. He’s never countered or overridden me, the idea of just pitting one against the other is just not helpful,” Fauci said.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters Tuesday that “public health includes economic health.”

“That’s the key point. And it’s not either-or. It’s not either-or, and that’s why we’re taking a fresh look at it,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump took to Twitter.

“Our people want to return to work,” the president tweeted. “They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!”

During a private conference call with roughly 30 conservative leaders on Tuesday, Pence reinforced Trump’s eagerness to lift coronavirus-related work and travel restrictions “in a matter of weeks, not months.”

Pence said there would be no formal decisions made until the current 15-day period of social distancing was complete when pressed on a specific timeline for lifting restrictions, according to a conference call participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private discussion.

Pence told the group that accommodations would need to be made for the highest-risk populations if and when restrictions begin to be lifted.

——

AP writer Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1101819

Reported Deaths: 20680
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4449279243
DuPage708901168
Will59768888
Lake54700921
Kane47171705
Winnebago26766415
Madison25299477
St. Clair22976450
McHenry22214258
Champaign15867106
Peoria15466251
Sangamon14918242
McLean13564171
Tazewell12296251
Rock Island12195308
Kankakee11720187
Kendall1001681
LaSalle9791250
Macon8982182
Vermilion7784117
DeKalb767894
Adams7537129
Williamson6358119
Boone565679
Whiteside5438175
Clinton517486
Coles479085
Knox4706147
Ogle470072
Grundy453154
Effingham437372
Jackson430270
Henry410277
Marion4081113
Macoupin400996
Franklin393771
Randolph380273
Livingston379270
Monroe367371
Stephenson363977
Jefferson3557105
Woodford334470
Morgan332193
Logan316959
Montgomery315954
Lee314276
Bureau305685
Christian305678
Fayette296753
Perry279262
Fulton262549
Iroquois262458
Jersey230161
Lawrence220730
McDonough219351
Saline208754
Douglas204534
Union203632
Shelby202235
Crawford183135
Cass179431
Bond178224
Warren160344
Pike160048
Richland157146
Hancock155035
Wayne154743
Clark152934
Jo Daviess152325
Washington149326
Edgar149253
Carroll146833
Moultrie141528
Ford140651
White140232
Clay134040
Greene128243
Johnson125615
Wabash121815
Mason119541
Piatt119518
De Witt119028
Mercer118730
Cumberland111727
Massac107233
Jasper106115
Menard91610
Hamilton73117
Marshall70515
Schuyler64617
Pulaski6253
Brown62211
Stark49920
Edwards4789
Henderson46616
Calhoun4504
Scott4081
Alexander4047
Gallatin3974
Putnam3572
Hardin3128
Pope2573
Unassigned1040
Out of IL320

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 611039

Reported Deaths: 9716
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion844351336
Lake45508685
Allen32891552
Hamilton29546315
St. Joseph27449381
Elkhart24440345
Vanderburgh19513250
Tippecanoe18043140
Johnson15140295
Porter14865169
Hendricks14440248
Madison11009222
Vigo10769181
Clark10731144
Monroe9424113
Delaware9152134
LaPorte9103164
Howard8268144
Kosciusko808983
Warrick676599
Hancock6741104
Bartholomew6523100
Floyd6469110
Wayne6157162
Grant6011116
Dubois556980
Boone554668
Morgan545795
Henry509764
Marshall505384
Cass485264
Dearborn483245
Noble474059
Jackson426747
Shelby419581
Lawrence392980
Clinton374243
Gibson372559
Harrison350945
DeKalb348264
Montgomery346554
Knox335839
Miami323044
Steuben314545
Whitley309726
Wabash304551
Adams302136
Ripley300046
Putnam297850
Huntington293159
Jasper290534
White274143
Daviess271274
Jefferson264738
Decatur248983
Fayette247848
Greene241162
Posey240328
Wells236451
LaGrange229662
Scott225739
Clay223532
Randolph214948
Jennings199336
Sullivan192933
Spencer192422
Washington187523
Fountain184627
Starke175643
Jay168223
Owen166837
Fulton164230
Orange160835
Carroll159115
Rush155818
Perry155229
Vermillion149334
Franklin149033
Tipton133033
Parke13088
Pike118226
Blackford111422
Pulaski97337
Newton91721
Brown88235
Benton86910
Crawford8069
Martin74413
Warren6857
Switzerland6665
Union6287
Ohio4957
Unassigned0376