WASHINGTON (CN) – As the World Health Organization warned the U.S. could become the next major epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump bemoaned interruptions to daily life Tuesday and said he wants the economy reopened by Easter.
“I’d love to have it open by Easter, it’s such an important day for other reasons, but I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said during a virtual town hall hosted by Fox News.
Easter Sunday is April 12, less than three weeks away. Public health experts have warned against pulling back on social distancing and other restrictions so soon, saying the U.S. has yet to hit its peak of virus cases.
Though regular White House coronavirus task force briefings have become a near daily occurrence and air publicly on CSPAN, Trump and other members of the task force fielded questions Tuesday morning from Twitter, Facebook and other social media venues about the pandemic for the Fox News town hall.
The town hall was moderated by Fox anchors Bill Hemmer and Harris Faulkner and pundits like Mehmet Oz, known as Dr. Oz, also joined the forum. The White House conducted its usual briefing late Tuesday, where much of what Trump and other task force members said earlier in the day was repeated.
“Our country is not built to shut down, our people are built of vim and vigor and energy,” Trump said to Hemmer. "I said I don’t want the cure to be worse than the problem itself."
Trump, referring to his own comments from this past weekend, explained he is concerned that state and local shutdowns to limit the spread of the virus known as Covid-19 have been overly damaging to the U.S. economy.
“You can get worse this way ... where it literally goes from being the most prosperous economy, and then all of the sudden we’re supposed to shut it down? And now we have to pay people not to go to work?” Trump said as he noted how the U.S. has historically lost “thousands of people to the flu.”
“We didn’t turn the whole country off,” the president added, saying thousands of people are killed in car accidents annually but it never prompted a shutdown of the auto industry.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases around the globe has surpassed 400,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. There are over 49,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. and the American death toll hit 600 on Tuesday.
Fox relied on the Johns Hopkins University numbers during the virtual town hall instead of figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has lagged with its data. The agency only updates statistics at 4 p.m. on weekdays. A representative for the CDC did not return multiple requests for comment.
Trump said Tuesday people must use common sense to slow the spread of the virus but he wants to see certain sectors of industry brought online again soon.