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Elected officials in some of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic are balking at President Trump’s hope that the U.S. economy will be “opened up and just raring to go by Easter” — calling the president’s statement everything from “inconceivable” to “incredibly dangerous.”
From New York to California, governors and mayors in states and cities reeling from the public health and economic chaos of the COVID-19 outbreak heavily criticized Trump’s optimistic projection made Tuesday during a Fox News town hall on the coronavirus.
“I have to respectively disagree that we’re looking to be done with this soon,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference later Tuesday. “We are doing all we can just to get through March. April will unquestionably be worse than March. May could be worse than April.”
The New York City metropolitan area is currently suffering through the largest outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, with more than 15,500 cases confirmed in the city alone.
The top response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said on Tuesday that 60 percent of new cases in the country are coming from the New York metropolitan area, while Vice President Pence noted that the White House has deemed the region a “high-risk area” and is surging much-needed medical supplies to the city’s hospitals.
“I think the notion that we could be ‘back to normal’ in April is inconceivable at this point,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio’s comments were echoed by lawmakers in California — another state hard hit by the virus and one where the outbreak is expected to spread even further in the coming week.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Trump’s Easter timeline is “sooner than any of the experts that I talked to would believe is possible.”
“The next six to eight weeks will be pivotal,” he said, adding that “soberly we look out over the course the next eight to 12 weeks, and I think we could continue to do what we’ve done. We do that, hopefully, then we’ll be in a very different place than we are today.”
In Los Angeles — the country’s second-largest city — Mayor Eric Garcetti said politicians need to be “straightforward and honest” and not give people false hopes about the country reopening anytime soon.
“I know that everybody is hopeful, and some are putting out that hope of us being back in churches by Easter or synagogues by Passover or restarting the economy in a couple weeks,” Garcetti said during a news conference. “I think we owe it to everybody to be straightforward and honest. We will not be back to … that level of normal in that short period of time.”
Outside the hotspots of the virus — such as New York, New Jersey, California and Washington — state officials also expressed skepticism of Trump’s claim.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was worried that Trump’s “off-the-cuff statements will really undermine our ability to protect people.”
Michigan is quickly becoming another area hard hit by the contagion, with more than 1,700 cases in the state. Wayne County — home to Detroit — sits only behind four counties in New York, Washington’s King County, where Seattle is, and Illinois’s Cook County, where Chicago is, as the county with the most cases in the U.S.
“I think it’s incredibly dangerous that someone with his platform and access to all of the information that he has would make such a statement, to be honest,” Whitmer told local media.
Both Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also dismissed Trump’s Easter projection. Lightfoot said that “Trump has not been a reliable leader” and that his claims “are flat-out wrong.”
Pritzker added to this during a briefing Tuesday, telling reporters that Trump only cares about the effects the virus is having on the stock market and economy.
“He’s looking at the stock market, which I know he essentially judges himself by, and making decisions in that way,” Pritzker said. “But I think the president is not taking into account the true damage that this will do to our country if we see truly millions of people die. And that’s what I think would happen; that’s what the scientists and doctors say would happen.”
While all these lawmakers are Democrats, members of Trump’s own Republican Party have also expressed skepticism in Trump’s boost to have the economy up and running by Easter.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who serves as House Republican Conference Chair, urged caution on Tuesday, although she didn’t explicitly address Trump’s comments.
“There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus,” Cheney tweeted.
Indeed, health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
“That’s really very flexible,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said on Tuesday of Trump’s Easter timeline. “You can look at a date but you’ve got to be very flexible and on a literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis. You need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do.”
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 — an initiative that has devastated the stock market and lead to soaring unemployment. The guidelines, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are voluntary, but many state and local leaders have issued mandatory restrictions in line with, or even tighter than, those issued by the CDC.
On Monday, the U.S. saw its biggest jump yet in the death toll due to the virus, with 609 American deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the outbreak began.
Fox News’ Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.