As doctors and nurses on Tuesday published an open letter urging the American public to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus and 20 House Democrats demanded a nationwide “shelter-in-place” order, President Donald Trump again betrayed the advice of experts by calling for the nation to be “opened up and raring to go by Easter,” which comes in less than three weeks.
“If we want to demonstrate true American leadership and stop this outbreak, we need a nationwide shelter-in-place order.”
—Rep. Ro Khanna
Trump is also reportedly rejecting warnings from public health experts—including those within his administration—and moving toward lifting federal coronavirus guidelines over concerns that the economic fallout could hurt him electorally. Meanwhile, at least 16 states have issued stay-at-home orders affecting over 40% of the U.S. population.
As the United States has racked up over 51,000 COVID-19 cases and 670 deaths, healthcare providers across the country have expressed alarm about a lack of COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies. Three leading healthcare groups on Tuesday released a letter emphasizing that “physical distancing and staying at home are the key to slowing the spread.”
“We are honored to serve and put our lives on the front line to protect and save as many lives as possible. But we need your help,” says the letter (pdf) from the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association. “Of course, those with urgent medical needs, including pregnant women, should seek care as needed. Everyone else should #StayHome.”
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and 19 other House Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter (pdf) to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, pressuring the president to immediately “issue a shelter-in-place order for the entire country lasting at least two weeks, excepting only travel for essential services like grocery stores and healthcare providers, and to and from the workplace for critical workers.”
“There is no doubt that an action of this magnitude will temporarily disrupt daily lives and cause short-term economic pain, but it will help prevent an extended outbreak and response that could plunge us deep into along-lasting recession,” says the lawmakers’ letter, which also calls on Congress to urgently pass stimulus legislation to save jobs and replace lost incomes.
The lawmakers warn that in terms of containing the outbreak, “our current actions to stem the tide are not enough,” pointing to the rising number of cases and medical supply shortages. While welcoming states’ shutdown efforts, the letter declares that “a state-by-state, locality-by-locality approach is not enough,” and proposes a national order with minimum guidelines and requirements that states could then enforce.
The letter’s co-signers are Democratic Reps. Anthony Brown (N.Y.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Susan Davis (Mass.), Veronica Escobar (Texas), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Jesús “Chuy” García (Ill.), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), Stephen Lynch (Tenn.), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (Fla.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Jamie Raskin (Md.), Mary Gay Scanlon (Pa.), José Serrano (N.Y.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Lori Trahan (Mass.) as well as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
We need a national shelter in place for at least 2 weeks.
Today, I and 19 of my colleagues are sending a letter to Trump demanding that he put this country on lockdown. https://t.co/yZvx7Yg6en
— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) March 24, 2020
“We’re watching our healthcare system collapse before us,” Khanna told CBS News Tuesday. “We’re seeing people separated from their loved ones. We’re witnessing students shut out from their classrooms and workers let go from their jobs.”
“If we want to demonstrate true American leadership and stop this outbreak, we need a nationwide shelter-in-place order,” the congressman added. “Let’s listen to the experts who are telling us that step is the only way we can truly mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Months of continued half-measures will cost us far more than two weeks of sheltering in place.”
However, based on Trump’s recent remarks about the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on Americans’ daily life, a national shutdown is a hard sell despite its rising popularity among politicians, public health officials, and policy experts.
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down…. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
With millions of Americans told to stay at home, President Donald Trump says the country “will again, and soon, be open for business”. pic.twitter.com/iHBEg5uIj7
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 24, 2020
“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this,” the president told reporters during a Monday night press briefing with his coronavirus task force. “America will again and soon be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting.”
“With the country now facing an unprecedented public health crisis,” said Carome, “the American cannot help but wonder whether Trump’s alarming proposal to ignore the advice of public health experts and soon loosen federal guidelines on social distancing that are intended to save lives and prevent our healthcare system from collapsing is motivated by his desire to minimize his own personal business financial losses.”
“Since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, widespread concerns have been raised about the dangers posed by the financial conflicts of interest involving Trump and his administration,” Carome added. “These circumstances further highlight why Trump represents a clear and present danger to our country.”