No one said those exact words, but the message was quite clear.
Then later Tuesday, in Arizona, President Donald Trump was asked about the planned shuttering of the task force. “I think we’re looking at phase two and we’re looking at other phases,” he responded. “The country is starting to open up, the task force has done a phenomenal job.”
“The jobs numbers are very, very chilling and I think that it’s very important to let people understand in a very somber way that this is the biggest shock that our economy has ever seen,” said White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday morning. “But it’s something that we’ve done to get ahead of the curve of the disease, so it’s something that we can reverse, hopefully, relatively quickly.”
The calculation being made here by the White House is simple. They saw themselves as having two options:
1) Keep the country closed unless and until an effective treatment for coronavirus emerges or a vaccine can be mass produced — a likely lengthy wait that could send the economy into recession or even depression.
2) Reopen the country, knowing that doing so will lead to considerably more deaths from coronavirus but also will likely revive the stalled economy.
They chose option two. Which isn’t all that surprising given that Trump has been hinting at just such a move for quite a while now.
And that is, well, that.
What Trump is hoping is that the current plateau in terms of overall cases either holds or begins to drop as states continue to reopen and the economy sparks back to life. Or that an effective treatment emerges. Or that the hotter weather lessens the spread. Or something.
And if that doesn’t happen? If the reopening of states which have not met the federal criteria — including 14 straight days of drops in the number of cases — causes a second boom of the virus?
Then Trump and his White House will lay the blame at the feet of governors and local officials. We gave you the testing capacity you needed! We have you the personal protective equipment you needed! What more can we do?
“For the constant criticism from the Do Nothing Democrats and their Fake News partners, here is the newest chart on our great testing ‘miracle’ compared to other countries. Dems and LameStream Media should be proud of the USA, instead of always ripping us down!”
So when you hear Trump and Pence talk about how the coronavirus fight is “transitioning” or moving to a new “phase,” what you need to understand is this: They are done with attempts of mitigating the virus via quarantining and other extreme stay-at-home measures. They have decided that enough time has been spent on the public health crisis and now is the time to focus on the economic crisis. And they are, quite candidly, hoping and praying that what they’ve already done to combat the virus is enough if and when it comes raging back.
That’s the simple reality we now face — whether you like it or not.