US President Donald Trump has announced plans for the coronavirus task force to focus on reopening the economy. The task force has been in place since January 29, with its aim being to “lead the administration’s efforts to monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the virus”. Mike Pence, who has been leading the task force, suggested the coronavirus response could be taken over by federal agencies and states over the next month.
The US has had the most confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 of any country, and Trump has consistently failed to follow the recommendations of scientists when it comes to controlling the outbreak. For this reason, many states have taken matters into their own hands.
New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, said his state’s plan for dealing with the outbreak would not involve a “trade-off” between protecting the economy and people’s lives. “The faster we reopen, the lower the economic costs, but the higher the human costs because the more lives lost. That, my friends, is the decision we are really making.” He added: “To me, a human life is priceless.”
Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, said of the state: “We’re not going back to normal” until a vaccine is developed. Despite a vocal minority being opposed to lockdown measures, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who described the lockdown as “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes, against all their constitutional rights”, most Americans do not support Trump’s plans to lift restrictions. Over 70% of Americans agree that there should be some form of lockdown in place in the coming weeks. This is in line with scientific advice, and evidence from countries that are already beginning to lift restrictions. Germany, for example, has been praised for its consistently high testing rate, allowing them to control the rate of infection. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel recently announced the start of the country’s reopening, causing the infection rate to rise above one for the first time in over a month.
The president, however, does not appear to be concerned by this evidence. He has consistently played down the severity of the virus at press briefings and has already taken steps to move back to a more open economy. When slaughterhouses began to close down due to high rates of infection, the president ordered that they open back up as essential businesses, under pressure from meat processors like Tyson.
Despite warnings of a second spike and thousands more deaths, Trump seems confident that the US economy can quickly recover from this crisis. At a press briefing last week he said: “There is no great win, one way or the other, but I will tell you where there is a win, we are going to build a country, I did it once, two months ago we had the best economy in the history of the world, but we are going to do it again and that’s what we’re starting … it’s going to happen pretty fast.” The true economic cost, however, will likely not be seen until long after the last confirmed case.