Quietly, allies and industries warn Trump against hasty reopening of economy

Robust testing for coronavirus is necessary before country can reopen, but that level of testing is not currently possible.


National News

April 16, 2020 - 9:30 AM

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, left, and Vice President Mike Pence at the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on Monday, April 13, 2020 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Allies of President Donald Trump and industry experts are telling the White House it will take robust coronavirus testing that is not currently available to most Americans for the country to reopen safely.

Personal protective equipment, specifically masks, would also need to be more prevalent to protect the spread of  the highly contagious  COVID-19, 

Businesses are also asking for stronger assurances from the government that they will be compensated in the event of a slow recovery — or if the virus resurges and they have to close up shop again — and they will not be held liable if an outbreak occurs at one of their properties.

Trump is eager to see social distancing restrictions that are cratering the U.S. economy lifted, and says that some states will be able to do so by May 1 — a date that is seen as unachievable by a range of public policy advocates, medical professionals and nationally recognized trade groups.

“It would require a miracle,” said Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “I don’t think we have the capacity right now.”

A faith leader who speaks to the White House regularly and has provided advice on this issue, Rodriguez, senior pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, said self-isolation cannot become the new normal.

At the same time, he said, “We can’t just restart the economy without increased testing. That will be irresponsible.”

Trump said at a Tuesday news conference that he was taking instruction from pastors, retailers, manufacturers and a host of other CEOs, and that he would soon be sharing a plan for reopening the country.

He said that 29 states are in “very, very good shape,” and he would be “authorizing” individual governors to bring people back to work. Trump did not say which states he was referring to. 

The president has said very little about what his reopening plan will include, although he hinted at a recommendation that states test everyone coming and going at their borders. If that were to happen, he said the federal government would provide the supplies they need if they are unable to acquire testing equipment on their own.

He also said companies could do weekly testing of their employees or require temperature checks to track possible infections.

High fever is one of the symptoms of the contagious coronavirus that has infected at least 605,000 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of this morning, more than 28,500 who contracted the disease had died, its data showed.

Rapid testing would need to be available in some capacity for businesses, schools, retailers, churches, nursing homes and other venues for them to be comfortable resuming their activities, industry leaders told McClatchy.

“Testing is mandatory,” said David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner to two presidents. “The more we test, the more we can isolate those who are transmitting this virus, we will be able to reduce the risk. It is essential to opening up this country. It is not elective.”

Major trade associations, including those representing the devastated travel, restaurant and hotel industries, have also conveyed their concerns to administration officials that a hasty opening could stifle demand for their services, having the unintended effect of protracting the economic pain.

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