As Trump talks up Easter, governors reject his 'imaginary clock'

Trump wants to retreat from combating the pandemic in mid-April, but the governors on the front lines don't much care what he wants.
Image: White House Coronavirus Task Force Holds Daily Briefing
From left, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, conclude a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 24, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Donald Trump has a circle of advisers, formal and informal, who have the president's ear, but there isn't a public-health professional among them. So as scientists and experts plead with the White House to "double down, not lighten up, on social distancing and related measures," the impatient amateur in the Oval Office finds it easy to tune them out, ignoring those who present him with information he doesn't want to hear.

In fact, Trump shared a new, premature target date yesterday for retreating from efforts to address the pandemic.

"I'd love to have an open by Easter. Okay? ... I would to have it open by Easter. I will — I will tell you that right now. I would love to have that — it's such an important day for other reasons, but I'll make it an important day for this too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter."

When a reporter asked soon after who suggested Easter as a target date, the president replied, "I just thought it was a beautiful time. It would be a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline. It's a great day."

In other words, Trump, roughly one week into the White House's mitigation efforts, picked a day to scale back, not based on science or public needs, but because he thought it sounded nice.

Many scientists, epidemiologists, medical professionals, and public-health experts were apoplectic yesterday, explaining that the president's intentions are profoundly dangerous -- both to the public and to the economy, which cannot function normally while a pandemic sweeps through much of the population.

A Washington Post report added that Trump's "optimism about how quickly American life could return to normal" is colliding with "a darkening reality."

But let's say the president doesn't care. Let's also say that Trump, hypothetically, is prepared to ignore science and epidemiological models, public-health experts, and the prospect of widespread deaths. Let's also say that once Easter arrives on April 12, the White House starts directing Americans to reverse course on trying to prevent the spread of a deadly virus.

Who would listen? As the Associated Press reported, many of the state officials taking the lead on addressing the crisis are already making clear that Trump's purported timeline is irrelevant to them.

Governors across the nation on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump's new accelerated timeline for reopening the U.S. economy, as they continued to impose more restrictions on travel and public life in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The dismissal of Trump's mid-April timeframe for a national reopening came from Republicans and Democrats, from leaders struggling to manage hot spots of the outbreak and those still bracing for the worst.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), the head of the National Governors Association and a governor who's occasionally clashed with Trump, said the White House appeared to be running on a schedule set by an "imaginary clock."

The AP report added, "The pushback suggests Trump's talk of an early reboot is unlikely to gain traction. In most cases, it's state leaders -- not the federal government -- who are responsible for both imposing and lifting the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions intended to stop the contagion."

It would appear, then, that the greatest risks would be to Americans living in states led by officials inclined to follow the White House's lead.

Update: A Washington Post report added this morning that "few" governors seem eager to echo the White House's preferred line, "which suggests even if Trump decides he wants to reopen things ... he won’t be able to do it in any large measure."