President Donald Trump on Sunday said Americans can have it both ways — with some going back to work and others continuing to be fearful about the coronavirus.
Asked about the “split” developing in the country, with some Americans protesting lingering closures and others scared to go back to work, Trump replied: “I think you can satisfy both.I think you can really have it both ways.”
The people who want to “stay back,” can stay back, he said. It might be a good idea for people over 60 to continue to stay inside, he said.
Trump’s comments came during a virtual town hall on Fox News with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop. Fox said it was the president’s choice to hold the event at the memorial.
The president showed he was more on the side of opening, saying that he was in favor of re-opening parks and beaches “if you stay away a certain amount.” He said he thought Virginia wasn’t going fast enough by extending a stay-at-home order until June 10.
He said the country has been successful in its efforts even though there are estimates of reaching 80,000-90,000 deaths from the pandemic. It is still not at the low end of estimates, Trump said.
“We would have lost a lot more people” if the government had taken no measures and tried to get herd immunity, he said. “Some states are doing so well.”
Asked if he was fostering unity in the country, Trump said that he hoped he was. “I think that winning is going to bring this country together,” he said. He defended his initial stay-at-home guidelines and said they didn’t go too far.
The president expressed optimism about the economic outlook, saying the economy will experience an “incredible” year in 2021. “I have a good feel for this stuff,” the president added.
“We’re going to go into a transition in the third quarter and we’re going to see things happening that look good,” Trump said.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, took to Twitter to say the coronavirus “didn’t have to be this bad” and said the fault lay with Trump.
The president said he was first told about the threat of a pandemic on Jan. 23. That’s later than some reports have suggested.
“I was told there was a virus coming in, but it was of no real import. “It was a brief conversation,” he said.
The Washington Post has reported U.S. intelligence agencies warned about the coronavirus in more than a dozen briefings in January and February.
Trump also said he wanted to see schools and colleges resume in September.
“We have to go back,” he said, though speculated that some older teachers might have to wait until there is a vaccine. The president also said he thought there would be a vaccine for COVID-19 “by the end of the year.”
Asked by an unemployed worker if the federal government would approve more help to those who have lost their jobs, Trump replied: “Yes.”
“We have to do more and we’re going to do more and everybody wants to do more. It’s very bipartisan,” he said.
Trump insisted that the next coronavirus relief package had to include a payroll tax cut.
“We’re not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut,” Trump said. The idea of a payroll tax cut is not popular with many Republicans and Democrats in Congress because it is very expensive.
Asked about how he would reduce the federal budget deficit, Trump said the government is getting money from tariffs on imported goods from China. He also said the economy is also going to have “great growth.” Private-sector economists think it will take higher taxes to reduce the deficit.
The president criticized Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said she didn’t have the supplies to test 2% of her population each week. Trump complained that Whitmer didn’t make the request during a phone call earlier in the week.
The president said he has been treated worse than Lincoln. Asked why he couldn’t be nice to reporters, Trump said: “If I was kind, I’d be walked off the stage.”