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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Although Donald Trump and other Republicans have begun to talk about ending the extreme lockdowns and social distancing which have become a new way of American life in recent weeks–in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic–the power to do so doesn’t rest with Trump or anyone in the federal government.
The decisions to close everything from schools, to state and local governments, to restaurants, bars, theaters and other establishments–anywhere where crowds could gather–have been made by the nation’s governors and mayors. And the decision to lift them will rest solely with them, as well.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell reminded his viewers of that fact on his nightly program.
There have been more than 395,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The virus has killed more than 17,000.
In the United States, 48,778 cases of the disease have been reported, with 588 deaths, according to the most recent numbers.
Trump, other members of his administration and some other Republicans across the country, have begun saying that the costs to the US economy of maintaining the lockdowns and social distancing is becoming too high for the benefit.
“We can’t let the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump said, referring apparently to the tanking stock markets and a US economy almost sure now to fall into recession, if not worse.
O’Donnell noted that Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading immunologist who has been a member of the federal coronavirus task force, and has often been at Trump’s side during his coronavirus briefings, was not present for this one.
“The White House press corps today chased the idea with the president that he was giving the very clear implication that maybe a week from now the president will declare America all ready to go back to work,” O’Donnell said.
This is despite the fact that officials are warning that the pandemic is likely to continue for perhaps months to come. Indeed, authorities have postponed this year’s Olympic Games scheduled for this summer in Tokyo.
Except that, as much as Trump may want to tell the country to go back to work next week and go out to dinner and a movie afterwards, he can’t do it.
“The problem for Donald Trump is that he’s not in charge of this one. Donald Trump has not closed down anything inside the United States. Donald Trump has not closed a single business in this country. Not a single school. He hasn’t closed anything. It’s America’s mayors and county officials and governors who have done that, mostly the governors,” O’Donnell said. “The governors of New York and California have both closed down their states and there is nothing Donald Trump can do about that.
“The governors of New York and California control more economic activity combined than most of the rest of the United States of America put together. And they are not going to reopen their states because of anything that Donald Trump says. Donald Trump didn’t shut down anything. And so Donald Trump cannot reopen anything. Donald Trump is not in charge here. The governors are in charge. And that is good news and that includes Republican governors who have shut down their states.
“Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose state controls more economic activity than any other state, and has more people than any other state, the governor of California will not be listening to anything Donald Trump says about when Gavin Newsom should begin returning California to normal,” O’Donnell added.
“Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has more coronavirus cases in his state than any other state, and in the biggest city in his state, Gov. Cuomo has a street named Wall Street. And it will be Andrew Cuomo, and not Donald Trump, who decides when New York state and New York City and Wall Street get back to normal,” O’Donnell added. “And luckily for New York, Andrew Cuomo is smart enough to not listen to a word Donald Trump says about that. But Andrew Cuomo has said publicly many times that he is guided by the medical professionals including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was not present at today’s White House briefing and rally for some reason.”
The Washington Post reported that Dr. Fauci is telling Trump that it is too soon to think about sending people back to work, O’Donnell noted.
“Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, and other leading public health experts have told administration officials and Republican lawmakers that prematurely scaling back social distancing measures would hamper efforts to mitigate the virus and would devastate hospitals, according to the people with knowledge of the conversations,” O’Donnell said, quoting from the Post report.
O’Donnell added that, in an interview with Science magazine, published this weekend, Dr. Fauci was asked what it’s like to be standing there in the White House briefing room when Donald Trump says something that is not true. Dr. Fauci said, “I can’t jump in front of a microphone and push him down. Okay, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”
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