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Trump says US won't close over second COVID-19 wave

The Hill logo The Hill 5/21/2020 Morgan Chalfant
President Donald Trump speaks at Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Ypsilanti, Mich. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) © AP President Donald Trump speaks at Ford's Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Ypsilanti, Mich. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump said Thursday the United States would not shut down in the case of a second coronavirus wave.

"People say that's a very distinct possibility. It's standard. And we're going to put out the fires. We're not going to close the country. We're going to put out the fires," Trump told reporters during a tour of a Ford manufacturing plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., when asked if he was concerned about a second wave of COVID-19.

Trump expressed confidence in the country's ability to contain future outbreaks, referring to them as "embers."

"Whether it's an ember or a flame, we're going to put it out. But we're not closing our country," the president continued.

All 50 states have announced plans to begin loosening restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, opening their economies at varying speeds so that Americans can begin to return to normal life.

States like Texas, North Carolina and Arizona have reported rising numbers of coronavirus cases as they've embarked on reopening plans.

Slideshow by photo services

The decision on whether to reintroduce restrictions in the event of a second wave would ultimately fall to state governors, not the federal government. While the White House issued guidance to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 it was governors who instituted stay-at-home measures and ordered businesses to close.

Still, Trump has made clear his desire for the country to reopen in order to address the economic damage caused by COVID-19.

Health experts including Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, have warned of the likelihood of a second wave of the virus come fall or winter and cautioned it could be more difficult to contain a future wave that coincides with flu season.

Fauci told a Senate panel last week it was "possible" that a second wave could be as bad or worse than the current situation but expressed confidence that the government's work expanding testing and contact tracing as well as producing critical medical equipment would well prepare the country to contend with future cases.

"I hope that if we do have the threat of a second wave we will be able to deal with it very effectively to prevent it from becoming an outbreak not only worse than now but much, much less," Fauci said last Tuesday in virtual testimony. The top infectious disease expert also warned that reopening states too quickly would cost lives.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said in April that confronting the virus in the fall would be "more difficult and potentially more complicated because we would have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time."

Trump has increasingly emphasized the need for the economy to reopen amid the pandemic, which has contributed to more than 30 million job losses as a result of business closures ordered by states across the country. He has recently refocused the coronavirus task force on safe reopening and developing vaccines and therapeutics to treat the virus.

But health experts have emphasized the need for robust testing and contact tracing capabilities to contain future outbreaks and cautioned that certain areas could need to retreat back to restrictions in the event there are substantial spikes.

The coronavirus has sickened more than 1.5 million Americans and caused more than 90,000 domestic deaths. The death toll is expected to reach 100,000 by the beginning of June, according to the CDC.

In later prepared remarks at the Ford facility, which is producing tens of thousands of ventilators for front-line health care workers, Trump declared that the country "wasn't meant to shutdown" and described prolonged shutdowns as a nonstarter.

"A permanent lockdown is not a strategy for a healthy state or a healthy country. Our country wasn't meant to be shut down," the president said. "We did the right thing but now it's time to open it up. A never-ending lockdown would invite a public health calamity. To protect the health of our people we must have a functioning economy."

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

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