Governors, health experts push back on Trump’s goal to reopen economy in May

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, expressed measured optimism on Sunday that parts of the country could begin slowly relaxing stay-at-home orders as part of a “rolling reentry” amid the coronavirus pandemic as early as next month.

“I think it could probably start, at least in some ways, maybe next month,” Fauci said on “State of the Union.” “We are hoping by the end of the month we can look around and say, OK, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on? If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down.”

But Fauci, who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, also repeatedly cautioned against a blanket reopening of the economy.

“It is not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now June, July, or whatever, click, the light switch goes back on,” Fauci told CNN host Jake Tapper. “It’s going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced.”

“If you just say, OK, it’s whatever, May 1, click, turn the switch on, obviously, if you do it in an all-or-none way, there’s an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound,” Fauci added.

Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former FDA commissioner, also talked on Sunday about balancing risk.

“There’s a lot of pressure right now from the business community on not just the administration but governors, as well, to start reopening the economy,” Gottlieb said on Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So I think inevitably we’re going to see a slow reopening of business activities through May with some risk, but there’s always going to be risk.”

For state leaders, however, the focus is still on managing a devastating health crisis amid a shortage of medical equipment. In a separate interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Murphy added on Sunday that he would be talking to the White House on Monday about New Jersey’s need for ventilators and personal protective equipment.

“Ventilators, I think, would be No. 1, and PPE again is something that we are constantly on the prowl for,” the Democratic governor told host Margaret Brennan. “We have these calls, which are very helpful, by the way, at least once a week. But as you can imagine, we’re on with the administration every single day.”

New Jersey is second only to neighboring New York state in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. The state has also taken a major economic hit because of the pandemic; a record 215,000 state residents filed for unemployment benefits over the last weeklong reporting period.

New Mexico’s Democratic governor also threw cold water on the likelihood of an imminent reopening of her state.

“We’re going to make the decisions that safeguard New Mexicans,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a CNN interview on Sunday. “This is the problem with not having a national strategy. This virus is blind to state borders. If we had better national strategies and universal testing and software-based contact tracing, we could figure out when opening makes sense and we could start to do that in the country.”

“We’ve looked at recovery options, but we’re not going do anything until the peak occurs and we’re clear about not having hospitalizations and removing the number of people that are positive every day in our surveillance and testing efforts,” Lujan Grisham added.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Sunday defended his state’s comparatively lax restrictions amid the pandemic. The state is one of only a handful to have not issued a formal stay-at-home order, though it has closed schools, restaurants and bars and banned indoor gatherings — with the notable exception of religious services — of more than 10 people.

“You’re not going to win simply by a lockdown, because there’s no such thing as a true lockdown where everybody stays at home and does not go out,” Hutchinson, a Republican, said on “State of the Union.” “The most important message is that you wear your mask, you do your social distancing. And the people of Arkansas have embraced that. And, again, it has given us success.”

Asked by Tapper whether there would be penalties for Easter Sunday worshipers who broke social-distancing protocols, Hutchinson said, “There’s not going to be any arrests made or citations made.”

“Virtually all of the churches in Arkansas are following the guidelines very carefully,” he added. “They’re just as concerned about their parishioners as I am as governor.”

David Lim contributed to this report.

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