Members of the bipartisan Economic Strategy Group signed a Wednesday letter which said the U.S. must pull together to combat the coronavirus before opening businesses and attempting to restart the economy.
President Donald Trump has shown some impatience with the current state of American business, many of which have been shut down by state governors in an attempt to curb the community spread of coronavirus. Trump has voiced his hope that American businesses can be opened again in April.
“Our paramount concern at this moment should be to slow the spread of this virus and equip our health care system to effectively respond,” the letter said. “Saving lives and saving the economy are not in conflict right now; we will hasten the return to robust economic activity by taking steps to stem the spread of the virus and save lives.”
“Public and private sector actors must work together to provide more tests, more ventilators, more personal protective equipment, and more support for hospitals and health care facilities,” the letter continued. “Only when we have made progress on these fronts will U.S. businesses and consumers be able to resume normal activity without inducing a resurgent spread that leads to even more severe health and economic effects.”
The letter was signed by 32 individuals including co-chairs of the Economic Strategy Group Henry M. Paulson, Jr. and Erskine Bowles. Also affixing their names to the letter were former Chairman of the Federal Reserve System Ben Bernanke, former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and others.
While Trump’s administration has worked to slow the spread of the coronavirus through education and budgetary measures, Trump has said that “America was not built to be shut down.”
“I’d love to have it open by Easter, okay?” Trump said Tuesday on Fox News. “It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’ll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
“Our decision will be based on hard facts and data as to the opening,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “Every decision is grounded solely in the health, safety and wellbeing of our citizens.”
One of President Trump’s top medical advisers, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday that in the end, it would not be the president but the coronavirus that would be the final decision-maker on when public distancing restrictions would end.
“You’ve got to understand that you don’t make the timeline,” Fauci said. “The virus makes the timeline. So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks, you’ve got to go with what the situation is on the ground.”
“You can’t make an arbitrary decision until you see what you’re dealing with,” Fauci added. “You need the data.”
Newsweek reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told NBC’s Sunday morning news program Meet the Press he did not believe the end of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic would happen by April.
“All Americans deserve the blunt truth,” de Blasio said. “April is going to be worse than March. And I fear May will be worse than April. So bluntly, it’s going to get worse, a lot worse, before it gets better.”