As cases of the Wuhan virus rise, President Donald Trump said that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months.

“We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump told reporters at a recent press conference and then in a Sunday tweet. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems.”

With the economic impact now snapping into focus and millions of people out of work, businesses shuttered and the markets in free fall, the chorus of backlash is growing louder, with Trump appearing to side with them.
“Life is fragile, and economies are fragile,” Trump said, saying he believed he could protect both.

While he acknowledged there were trade-offs — “there’s no question about that” — he claimed that, if closures stretch on for months, there would be “probably more death from that than anything that we’re talking about with respect to the virus.”

In recent days, tensions have risen between those who argue the country needs to get back up and running to prevent a deep economic depression and medical experts who warn that, unless more extreme action is taken, the human cost will be catastrophic.

“We can’t shut in the economy. The economic cost to individuals is just too great,” Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, said in an interview Monday on Fox News Channel. “The president is right. The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re going to have to make some difficult trade-offs.”

It’s an opinion that has been echoed by others in the White House, some Republicans in Congress and on Fox, where host Steve Hilton delivered a monologue Sunday night that appeared to have, at least partially, inspired Trump’s tweet.

“You know that famous phrase, the cure is worse than the disease? That is exactly the territory we’re hurtling towards,” Hilton told his viewers, describing the economic, social and human impact of the shutdown as an “even bigger crisis” than the virus.

“You think it’s just the coronavirus that kills people? This total economic shutdown will kill people,” he said, pointing to growing poverty and despair.

Trump, who for the last two weeks has largely allowed doctors to lead the administration’s response, already seemed to shift in that direction.

“I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now,” Trump said Monday, when asked about easing federal recommendations urging Americans to limit social contact and stay home.

He said states with large case loads could continue to enforce stricter measures, while other parts of the country return to work.

Trump tweeted that he would be waiting until the end of the current 15-day period of recommended closures and self-isolation to make any decisions, which would be March 30. At the same time Trump sent that message, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were exploring new guidance making it possible for people working in “critical infrastructure” jobs who have been exposed to the virus to return to work faster “by wearing a mask for a certain period of time,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Worldwide, more than 375,000 cases have been reported, and while most people recover in weeks, more than 16,000 have died from the virus.

On Wednesday, Whitehouse Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx said more than 50 percent of deaths in Italy attributed to the virus have been accompanied by at least three underlying health conditions.

Adapted from a story on