Over the past week, the president has cycled between occasional flashes of competence and claims that have no basis in reality, like his Saturday boast that Ford and General Motors were making ventilators “right now,” which the automakers soon denied. After seven days or so of this above-par performance listening more or less to medical experts, Trump now appears ready to return to his tested strategy of crisis denial. The shift began late on Sunday night, when he previewed his potential plan to ramp the economy back up after a fortnight or so of social distancing:
The message was put into action on Monday, when Vice-President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, stated that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon issue new guidelines allowing people exposed to the virus to leave isolation earlier and return to work if they wear a mask — despite the country’s dire shortage of suitable masks.
Trump first announced the national social-distancing measures on March 16, meaning the period would wrap next Monday, two days before the first rent payment of the shutdown is due. While the president and his advisers are readying to move toward a soft reopening of the economy — and away from the advice of public-health experts — the country’s governors are expressing the opposite message and calling for stronger quarantining measures to halt the spread of the virus before patients inundate the hospital systems and we follow in the grim path of Italy.
As emergency-room staffers face 13-hour overtime shifts and New York providers deal with treating around 6 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, Governor Cuomo called for renewed focus in New Yorkers’ efforts to stay away from each other. While the governor waits for the city’s plan to expand and enforce social distancing, he ordered state hospitals to increase capacity by at least 50 percent. On Monday, he also spoke at the Javits Center, as the Hell’s Kitchen convention center prepares for a transition to an emergency COVID-19 ward as early as next week:
On Sunday, California governor Gavin Newsom warned that at the current rate of infection, 22 million Californians could have the coronavirus in the next two months unless aggressive measures are taken. Over the weekend, he ordered $42 million in emergency funds for the state to lease two Los Angeles hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. And two days after he issued a shelter-at-home advisory, Newsom condemned young people in the state for hitting the beach over the weekend: “People are still out there on the beaches thinking it’s time to party,” he said. “It’s time to grow up, time to wake up.”
While New York and California, two of the states hit hardest by the virus so far, have led much of the state-level response to the crisis, over the weekend, governors across the country elevated the measures to prevent coronavirus exposure. On Monday, the governors of Oregon, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and New Mexico ordered residents to remain at home, while the governors of Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Maryland ordered non-essential businesses to close.