Trump says he intends to reopen country in weeks, not months

WASHINGTON (AP) — As cases of coronavirus continue to rise, President Donald Trump said Monday that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months, as he claimed, without evidence, that continued closures could result in more deaths than the pandemic itself.

"We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump told reporters at a briefing, echoing a midnight Sunday tweet. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."

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.

But with the economic impact now snapping into focus and millions out of work, businesses shuttered and the markets in free fall — all undermining Trump's reelection message — the chorus of backlash is growing louder, with Trump appearing to side with them.

“Life is fragile and economies are fragile," Trump said, insisting he could protect both.

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Reading, PA - March 26: A Stay Strong sign has been erected in the cloverleaf at the Penn Street exit of Route 422, in Reading, PA Thursday, March 26, 2020, to offer encouragement in the coronavirus epidemic.(Photo by Bill Uhrich/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 27: Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., walks down the House steps as the House votes on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in Washington on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 25: A patient with a face mask is seen at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, United States on March 25, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. topped 800 on Wednesday, while the number of cases reached over 55,200, according to latest figures by Johns Hopkins University. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: A New York Police officer wears a face mask as he directs traffic on a local street on March 27, 2020 in New York City. At least 350 members of the New York City Police Department including deputy commissioner John Miller were confirmed to have the virus. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: A New York Police officer wears a face mask as he directs traffic on a local street on March 27, 2020 in New York City. At least 350 members of the New York City Police Department including deputy commissioner John Miller were confirmed to have the virus. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks with reporters as she arrives at the U.S. Capitol on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on the stimulus bill intended to combat the economic effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27: People cross Park Av. after it was announced that some streets will be shut as lockdown continues in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreakon March 27, 2020 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio chose four streets across four boroughs to test whether shutting down streets to vehicular traffic would increase social distancing among pedestrians during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
FLORIDA, USA - MARCH 20: Paramedics dressed in hazmat suits assist the evacuation of cruiseships crew members with respiratory symptoms associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Coast Guardâs Miami Beach station, in Miami, Florida, United States on March 26, 2020. (Photo by MARCO BELLO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
FLORIDA, USA - MARCH 20: An ambulance is seen during the evacuation of cruiseships crew members with respiratory symptoms associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) at the Coast Guardâs Miami Beach station, in Miami, Florida, United States on March 26, 2020. (Photo by MARCO BELLO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Reading, PA - March 26: (L-R) Siblings Azuleirys Francisco, 10, Alexander Francisco, 6, and Jovani Francisco, 8, sanitize their hands as a precaution against coronavirus while picking up meals from the parking lot at 4th and Windsor in Reading, PA Thursday afternoon Thursday March 26, 2020. The site is run by Olivets and the Reading School District.(Photo by Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
Amity twp., PA - March 26: The sign for Hope Church in Amity Township that reads "Social Distancing, Join us online..." Thursday afternoon March 26, 2020.(Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
A woman poses for a photo with her dog in a mostly empty Times Square, New York, US, on March 25, 2020. (Photo by John Lamparski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 25: A view of empty road in Brooklyn, New York, United States on March 25, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. topped 800 on Wednesday, while the number of cases reached over 55,200, according to latest figures by Johns Hopkins University. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A sign is displayed at a coffee shop on March 25, 2020 in New York City. - The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the United States reached 60,115 on Wednesday while 827 people had died, a tracker run by Johns Hopkins University showed. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 25: Basketball courts are seen empty due to coronavirus spread on March 25, 2020 in New York City, New York. Across the country schools, businesses and places of work have either been shut down or are restricting hours of operation as health officials try to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA - MARCH 18: Shoppers at Walgreens in San Franciscoâs Castro District make last minute purchases minutes before the shelter in place directive was to take effect on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA, USA - MARCH 18: A Safeway store in San Jose posts new shorter store hours to provide a safer work environment ahead of Tuesdayâs directive to shelter in place for residents of the six counties that make up the Bay Area, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, USA - MARCH 18: Mounted officers patrol the area outside Pier 39 in San Francisco on day one of the shelter in place order on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, USA - MARCH 17: Weapons on display at a gun shop in Manassas, Virginia, United States as gun and ammunition sales in the U.S. have skyrocketed as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spread across the country. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A security officer stands guard at a tent set up outside the emergency room at an AdventHealth hospital on March 17, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. The tent is part of AdventHealth's surge planning in case extra space is needed to care for potential coronavirus cases in the community. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A tent is seen set up outside the emergency room at an AdventHealth hospital on March 17, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. The tent is part of AdventHealth's surge planning in case extra space is needed to care for potential coronavirus cases in the community. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
External and outside of emergency room views of the pandemic, novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19 are seen at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital on March 17, 2020 in Park Ridge, Illinois, United States. The collection includes additional tents, a warning construction sign, an empty road, a congested road, a law enforcement vehicle, and a drive through testing area. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 17: Medical professionals work in coronavirus testing tents at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Newton, MA on March 17, 2020. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 17: An emergency tent is set up at the Carney Hospital in Boston's Dorchester for coronavirus pandemic use on March 17, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
LEONARDTOWN, MARYLAND - MARCH 17: Nurses screen patients for COVID-19 virus testing at a drive-up location outside Medstar St. Mary's Hospital on March 17, 2020 in Leonardtown, Maryland. The facility is one of the first in the Washington, DC area to offer coronavirus testing as more than 5,200 cases have been confirmed in the United States, and more than 90 deaths have been attributed to the virus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A sign on a table provides instructions for social distancing, while a group of people are seen in the background, selective focus, sitting around a small table, at a hospital in San Francisco during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, California, March 16, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH, 16: Nurse practitioner Amy Israelian puts on protective gear in a tent in the parking lot of the Newton-Wellesley Hospital before testing a possible coronavirus patient in Newton, MA on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Two staff members wheel Amwell telemedicine carts into the entrance of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children's Hospital in Mission Bay, San Francisco, California during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, March 16, 2020. As a result of the outbreak, patients are increasingly being asked to conduct telemedicine appointments to avoid infecting healthcare workers. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
People line up to enter a triage tent outside of the emergency room at Memorial West Hospital in Pembroke Pines, Fla., on Monday, March 16, 2020. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
WESTMINSTER, MARYLAND - MARCH 16: Dawn Canova, clinical manager for outpatient wound care at Carroll Hospital, takes off her protective gloves after taking a sample to test a person for the coronavirus at a drive-thru station in the hospital's parking garage March 16, 2020 in Westminster, Maryland. Not open to the general public for testing, the station was set up to take samples from people who had spoken with their doctors and received explicit direction to get a test for the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WESTMINSTER, MARYLAND - MARCH 16: Carroll Hospital Critical Care Unit Clinical Manager Stephanie Bakert talks to a person through his car window using a mobile phone before testing him for the coronavirus at a drive-thru station in the hospital's parking garage March 16, 2020 in Westminster, Maryland. Not open to the general public for testing, the station was set up to take samples from people who had spoken with their doctors and received explicit direction to get a test for the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: An exterior view of Lenox Hill Hospital as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 15, 2020 in New York City. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: Passengers disembark from the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship on March 15, 2020 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that any cruise ship passenger disembarking in New York City with a temperature over 100.4 will be given the choice of self-isolating at home or be taken to a hospital to protect against the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
DAYTON, WA - MARCH 14: Dr. Lewis Neace, head of the ER at Dayton General Hospital poses for a photograph. Dayton, a small town in rural southeast Washington has an aging population, had its first positive test for Coronavirus and is waiting on results of more tests. (Photo by Nick Otto for the Washington Post)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 14: An exterior view of Harlem Hospital Center, aka NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem, as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 14, 2020 in New York City. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 14: A general view of the Ascension St. Vincent's Riverside Hospital on March 14, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Un puñado de personas transitan la terminal de Grand Central en Nueva York el 23 de marzo del 2020. Normalmente hay multitudes en la estación, pero muy poca gente está viajando como consecuencia del coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A sign displaying messages on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is displayed at the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge, Monday, March 23, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
NEW PALTZ, NY - MARCH 22: A highway information display says, "STOP THE SPREAD SAVE LIVES" on a mostly empty Interstate 87 on Sunday afternoon. The highway was mostly empty on the same day that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo pleads with New York residents to take the stay-at-home orders seriously regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. Photographed in New Paltz, New York on March 22, 2020, USA. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
People are seen lining up for testing Covid-19 in Elmhurst Queens to test for Coronavirus, on March 21, 2020. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People are seen lining up for testing Covid-19 in Elmhurst Queens to test for Coronavirus, on March 21, 2020. (Photo by John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
STONY BROOK, NEW YORK - MARCH 21: A sign direct people to a COVID-19 test facility at Stony Brook University on March 21, 2020 in Stony Brook, New York. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and other members of the task force listen as National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 21, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Women wear face masks a a scarf to protect their mouths and nose as they walk along 34th St., Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. "Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job," Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
A subway customer wears protective gloves on an empty car as it stops at a sparsely populated 57th Street station due to COVID-19 concerns, Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. "Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job," Cuomo said of an executive order on Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A postal worker wears a protective mask and gloves while operating a route in the Queens borough of New York, Friday, March 20, 2020. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. "Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job," Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A Red Robin reastaurant in Tigard, Ore., has closed some tables in order to maintain 'social distancing' between diners per CDC guidelines Sunday, March 15, 2020. They said they were running the place at 50 percent capacity so they could leave tables empty between customers. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
A commuter pauses to read a video display on the Gallery Place Metro subway train platform in Washington, Friday, March 13, 2020, with a message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the proper way to wash your hands to combat the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US Vice President Mike Pence, flanked by CDC Director Robert R. Redfield (L) and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, shows documents to reporters during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at the White House on March 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
An electronic billboard sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides tips for the public on ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 20, 2020 along Interstate 4 in Deland, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Street performer Eddie Webb looks around the nearly deserted French Quarter looking to make money in New Orleans, Sunday, March 22, 2020. With much of the city already hunkered down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issues a shelter-in-place order to take effect starting Monday at 5:00 PM. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A sign to draw customers is seen outside the nearly empty Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar in New Orleans, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell have ordered all restaurants and bars to close except for takeout, and asked residents to remain home and maintain social distancing from others when outside, due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Kamari Fletcher waits for her to-go order inside the nearly empty Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar in New Orleans, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell have ordered all restaurants and bars to close except for takeout, and asked residents to remain home and maintain social distancing from others when outside, due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
A shuttered business is seen in the French Quarter in New Orleans on March 26, 2020, during the coronavirus outbreak. - New Orleans, the Louisiana city known as the "Big Easy" famed for its jazz and nightlife, has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States. The southern US state now has 2,305 confirmed cases and 83 deaths. New Orleans alone accounts for 997 of the cases and 46 of the deaths. (Photo by Emily Kask / 30203169A / AFP) (Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images)
Words from Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" are painted onto plywood covering the window of a closed business during the coronavirus outbreak in New Orleans on March 26, 2020. - New Orleans, the Louisiana city known as the "Big Easy" famed for its jazz and nightlife, has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States. The southern US state now has 2,305 confirmed cases and 83 deaths. New Orleans alone accounts for 997 of the cases and 46 of the deaths. (Photo by Emily Kask / 30203169A / AFP) (Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images)
A closure note is posted on the family-owned Bar Redux in the Bywater in New Orleans on March 26, 2020. - New Orleans, the Louisiana city known as the "Big Easy" famed for its jazz and nightlife, has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States. The southern US state now has 2,305 confirmed cases and 83 deaths. New Orleans alone accounts for 997 of the cases and 46 of the deaths. (Photo by Emily Kask / 30203169A / AFP) (Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images)
A shuttered business is pictured on Decatur Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 26, 2020. - New Orleans, the Louisiana city known as the "Big Easy" famed for its jazz and nightlife, has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States. The southern US state now has 2,305 confirmed cases and 83 deaths. New Orleans alone accounts for 997 of the cases and 46 of the deaths. (Photo by Emily Kask / 30203169A / AFP) (Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images)
A shuttered restaurant is pictured in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 26, 2020. - New Orleans, the Louisiana city known as the "Big Easy" famed for its jazz and nightlife, has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States. The southern US state now has 2,305 confirmed cases and 83 deaths. New Orleans alone accounts for 997 of the cases and 46 of the deaths. (Photo by Emily Kask / 30203169A / AFP) (Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images)
National Guard members walk down Rampart Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 26, 2020. - New Orleans, the Louisiana city known as the "Big Easy" famed for its jazz and nightlife, has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States. The southern US state now has 2,305 confirmed cases and 83 deaths. New Orleans alone accounts for 997 of the cases and 46 of the deaths. (Photo by Emily Kask / 30203169A / AFP) (Photo by EMILY KASK/30203169A/AFP via Getty Images)
Stony Brook, N.Y.: State workers and members of the National Guard check in people arriving for the drive-thru coronavirus testing at Stony brook University in New York on March 25, 2020. (Photo by John Paraskevas/Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Gov. Brad Little issues a statewide stay-at-home order to further prevent spread of coronavirus COVID-19 at a press conference Wednesday, March 25, 2020 held at Gowen Field, headquarters of the Idaho Army National Guard in Boise, Idaho. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
A Healthcare worker help to check in with the assistant from the Florida Army National Guard as vehicles line up at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Marlins Park as the coronavirus pandemic continues on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Miami. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
A Healthcare worker help to check in with the assistant from the Florida Army National Guard as vehicles line up at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Marlins Park as the coronavirus pandemic continues on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Miami. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: (L-R) U.S. President Donald Trump and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci arrive for a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press briefing room of the White House on March 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Friday on the $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. After the U.S. House of Representatives votes on Friday, President Trump is expected to sign the $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 25: Flanked by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci (L) and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. The United States Senate continues to work on a $2 trillion aide package to combat the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, UNITED STATES - MARCH 26, 2020: A volunteer puts on gloves before participating in the Monroe County Food Train to give meals, and groceries to youth 18 and under, during the COVID-19/Coronavirus emergency in Bloomington. Hundreds of workers have been laid off in the community, and the governor has issued a stay-at-home order.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Jeremy Hogan / Echoes Wire/ Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Jeremy Hogan / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 26: Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and Gov. Charlie Baker hold a press conference in the Gardner Auditorium at The Massachusetts State House in Boston on March 26, 2020. Baker and Sudders addressed attempting to secure more pieces of personal protection equipment and mobile schooling concerns. (Photo by Blake Nissen/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
The Magic Bag theater is pictured closed, due to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's measures to stop the spread of COVID 19 in Ferndale, Michigan on March 26, 2020. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
A Great Clips hair salon sign is pictured as it's closed, due to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's measures to stop the spread of COVID 19 in Ferndale, Michigan on March 26, 2020. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
A closed sign is seen on the Suburban Buick GMC that is currently closed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to stop the spread of coronavirus,COVID-19, in Ferndale, Michigan on March 26, 2020. - President Donald Trump, keen for an early lifting of economically costly social distancing measures against the coronavirus, said he would propose dividing the United States by risk levels. In a letter to state governors released by the White House, Trump said that better testing now allows the mapping of virus threat on a local level. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 26: The Boston Public Garden on March 26, 2020 in Boston, United States. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker required all non-essential businesses to close on Tuesday and requested the population to stay home as much as possible. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
METHUEN, MA - MARCH 25: A sign in front of the Donald P. Timony Grammar School in Methuen, MA reminds students and parents to check their email often for updates on March 25, 2020. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that schools in the state will remained closed until at least May 4 in response to the coronavirus emergency. The announcement came as state public health officials reported that the total number of coronavirus-related deaths had risen to 15, up from 11 the day before. Officials reported 679 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the tally in Massachusetts to 1,838, up from 1,159. Officials said 19,794 people had been tested as of Wednesday, up from 13,749. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A Los Angeles traffic officer wear a mask as he directs traffic on March 24, 2020. - In California, already under orders to stay home because of the coronavirus outbreak, Governor Gavin Newsom tightened the lockdown to shut parking lots at beaches and parks after tens of thousands flouted social distancing rules. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 24: Members of the California National Guard 115th Regional Support Group help pack boxes of food at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley on March 24, 2020 in San Jose, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has deployed the California National Guard to help distribute food at food banks across the state that have seen a huge decline in volunteers that usually help sort and pack food for the needy. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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While he acknowledged there were trade-offs — “there's no question about that" — he claimed that, if closures stretch on for months, there would be “probably more death from that than anything that we're talking about with respect to the virus.”

The comments were further evidence that Trump has grown impatient with the pandemic, even before it has reached its expected peak. In recent days, tensions have been rising between those who argue the country needs to get back up and running to prevent a deep economic depression, and medical experts who warn that, unless more extreme action is taken, the human cost will be catastrophic.

“We can't shut in the economy. The economic cost to individuals is just too great,” Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, said in an interview Monday on Fox News Channel. “The president is right. The cure can't be worse than the disease, and we're going to have to make some difficult trade-offs.”

It's an opinion that has been echoed by others in the White House, some Republicans in Congress and on Fox, where host Steve Hilton delivered a monologue Sunday night that appeared to have, at least partially, inspired Trump's tweet.

“You know that famous phrase, the cure is worse than the disease? That is exactly the territory we're hurtling towards," Hilton told his viewers, describing the economic, social and human impact of the shutdown as an “even bigger crisis" than the virus.

“You think it's just the coronavirus that kills people? This total economic shutdown will kill people,” he said, pointing to growing poverty and despair.

Trump, who for the last two weeks has largely allowed doctors to lead the administration's response, already seemed to be shifting in that direction.

“I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now," Trump said Monday, when asked about easing federal recommendations urging Americans to limit social contact and stay home. He said states with large case loads could continue to enforce stricter measures, while other parts of the country return to work.

Even as Trump tweeted that he would be waiting until the end of the current 15-day period of recommended closures and self-isolation to make any decisions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were exploring new guidance making it possible for people working in "critical infrastructure" jobs who have been exposed to the virus to return to work faster “by wearing a mask for a certain period of time,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

It's a change in tone that is drawing criticism from public health experts, who suggested Trump risks making a dangerous mistake if he sets up a conflict between public health and the nation’s economic well-being, given how unlikely it is that the threat posed by the virus will subside in another week.

If the U.S. stops social distancing too soon, “you will have more deaths and more dives in the stock market,” warned Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University, a lawyer with extensive public health expertise.

And the outbreak could come surging back once people return to their normal routines of commuting, working, dining out and socializing — further stressing the economy.

John Auerbach, president of the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, which works with governments at all levels to improve preparedness for public health emergencies, said widespread illness and death also have a powerful economic impact that’s impossible to ignore or play down.

“If you don’t flatten the curve and minimize those who are getting infected, the amount of sickness will cripple business,” said Auerbach.

Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, urged Trump to stick with the advice of public health officials.

“There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus,” he warned on Twitter. “Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world.”

But Stephen Moore, a former Trump economic adviser, said it's time now “to start thinking about what kind of dramatic costs to society are we absorbing from the shutdown," including tens of millions unemployed and potential spikes in drug overdoses and suicides.

He said he has been urging his former colleagues to selectively open the economy in ways that minimize the public health risk with more testing and, for instance, taking people's temperature in public places, as they are now doing in other countries.

“There’s no good solutions here. There’s just bad solutions," Moore conceded. “And to me, the worst solution is to just grind our economy to a halt.”

Other economists warned that if Americans return to work too soon, there could be recurring outbreaks that would only worsen a recession. But if the period of isolation continues for too long, there will be a steep cost in trying to restart and sustain economic growth.

Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at the consultancy RSM, said lifting restrictions after 15 days would be “potentially a profound policy mistake" because it could lead to a second or third wave of outbreaks that would do even more harm to economic growth.

“We got one shot to get this all right,” Brusuelas said, noting that Trump has a great deal at stake personally, given the upcoming election in November. “The last thing one would want to do from an economic policy perspective is to elevate one's electoral interests above that of the economy or, most importantly, public health.”

Analysts at Morgan Stanley estimated Monday that the economy will shrink at a record-breaking annualized pace of 30% in the second quarter. The unemployment rate would surge to 12.8% — the highest level ever in data that go back to the 1940s. But this forecast assumes the outbreak peaks in late April, after which there would be fewer reasons to restrict economic activity, and a sharp rebound would begin in the June-August quarter, leading to solid growth in 2021.

Austan Goolsbee, an economist at the University of Chicago and a former adviser to President Barack Obama, says there is no real tension between containing the outbreak and preserving the U.S. economy. He has repeatedly emphasized that halting the outbreak is needed so that growth can resume as companies feel comfortable hiring and consumers ramp up spending.

“Anything that slows the spread of the virus is by far the best thing to restore the economy,” Goolsbee wrote on Twitter.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Worldwide, more than 375,000 cases have been reported, and while most people recover in weeks, more than 16,000 have died from the virus.

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Boak reported from Baltimore.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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