By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would like to reopen the U.S. economy with a “big bang” but that the death toll from the coronavirus needs to be on the down slope before that can happen.
Trump did not give a timeframe on when he would like to reopen the economy, but his chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Tuesday it was possible this could happen in four to eight weeks.
Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, wants to get the economy going again as soon as possible, but his medical advisers are urging caution out of concern that trying to return to some sense of normalcy too early could lead to a renewed outbreak.
Trump and his team have been heartened by signs that the death toll among Americans may fall far short of projections that he outlined last week indicating between 100,000 and 240,000 could die.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” Trump said at a White House news briefing.
He said the economy could be reopened in phases but that “it would be nice to open with a big bang.” But he said, “We have to be on the down side of the slope” of infections and that he will rely heavily on experts in determining how to proceed.
Bob Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, announced new guidance to ensure critical infrastructure workers can do their jobs after being exposed to the virus.
He said the new guidelines, for essential workers who have been exposed to coronavirus and are asymptomatic, is to wear face masks, take their temperature, and practice social distancing.
Vice President Mike Pence injected a somber tone into the briefing as the death toll among Americans reached more than 14,000 people in what Trump has called probably the most painful week the country will face during the crisis.
“We are in the midst of a week of heartache,” Pence said, adding that “we are beginning to see glimmers of hope.”
Pence announced 3,000 people will participate in a clinical trial about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that Trump has touted as helpful to some patients with COVID-19, although doubts remain among medical experts.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast)