President Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday.(Alex Brandon/AP)
President Trump nudged the nation’s governors on Wednesday to get ready to reopen their economies and dubiously threatened to override them should they refuse, as the country’s coronavirus death toll continued to skyrocket.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Trump said his administration will share guidelines with the governors on Thursday on how to get the U.S. economy back on track amid record-high unemployment figures and other financial devastation caused by the virus.
“We’ll be the comeback kids,” said Trump, whose reelection bid hinges on the previously strong state of the economy. “Tomorrow is going to be a very big day … We want to get our country back.”
Earlier in the briefing, Vice President Mike Pence struck a more measured note, saying the new guidance will “build on our progress and reopen America in a safe and responsible way.”
Neither Trump nor Pence gave any insight on exactly what the guidelines will say.
But Trump threatened to “take very strong action” against governors if they don’t get in line.
“We have the right to do whatever we want,” said Trump. “We have the right to close down whatever they’re doing.”
Despite Trump’s comments, governors have wide discretion in deciding how to run their own states and health experts have warned against rolling back social distancing guidelines too soon.
Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday he will take legal action against the Trump administration if the president “ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health” of New York. The Empire State is the global epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 12,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday evening.
The New York City Health Department announced Wednesday it has more than 4,000 “probable” coronavirus deaths, in addition to 6,840 confirmed deaths. The “probable” category consists of people who died from COVID-19-like symptoms without ever testing positive for the virus.
Trump didn’t dispute the city’s revised count, but suggested it may result in inconsistencies.
“What they are doing is just in case — that is OK,” the president said. “We have more cases because we do more reporting.”
Nationally, 28,000 Americans have now died from the virus. More than 630,000 infections have been confirmed.
Pence said the 50 governors will get a first peek at the new guidelines Thursday before they’re disseminated publicly.
The Trump administration’s current COVID-19 guidelines hold that people should not meet in groups larger than 10, stay home as much as possible and refrain from going to work if they can.
Those guidelines aren’t binding, though many states have on their own enacted similar measures.
Since the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S., Trump has alternated between saying he wants to let states dictate their own pandemic response and asserting he has “total” authority to tell them what to do.
By Chris Sommerfeldt, New York Daily News