Trump hopeful of national coronavirus recovery by Easter

U.S. businesses seek $2 trillion in bailouts due to COVID-19

President Donald Trump said he would “love” to have the nation recovered and back open for business from the coronavirus pandemic by April 12, Easter Sunday.

“It’s absolutely possible,” Trump said, adding “our country wants to go back to work, our people want to go back to work.” He said U.S. citizens will still need to continue safe practices such as social distancing and hand washing.

Trump made the comments during a live, virtual town hall on Fox News on Tuesday, as Congress continued debating a $2-trillion COVID-19 package. Congressional and White House officials said Tuesday a deal appears to be at hand to provide sweeping aid to businesses and workers facing ruin from the coronavirus pandemic.

»COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities.

“I gave it two weeks," Trump said during the virtual town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die from the seasonal flu or in automobile accidents and “we don't turn the country off.”

“We'll assess at that time and we'll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up," he added. “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”

New Trump Coronavirus Guidelines Recommend Avoiding Crowds of More Than 10 People President Donald Trump and members of the coronavirus task force spoke at length with the press on Monday afternoon.

Trump’s comments were another indication the president is growing impatient with the virus. In recent days, tensions have been rising 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.

»MORE: Utah Democrat Ben McAdams hospitalized from coronavirus

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, said agreement appeared close on the nearly $2 trillion package. “I don't see any issue that can't be overcome within the next few hours," Schumer said. "Last night I thought we were on the five-yard line. Now we're on the two."

Negotiators labored in the shadow of what McConnell called "the most serous threat to Americans' health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America's jobs and prosperity that we've seen since the Great Depression.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional leaders engaged in final negotiations after a tumultuous but productive day on Monday. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some sticking points remained.

Trump's Easter target was not immediately embraced by Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for Trump's task force, who indicated any move would have to be guided by data still being collected. She suggested that public health professionals could recommend a general easing, while pushing for local restrictions to remain in the hardest-hit areas.

Trump acknowledged that some want the guidance to continue, but claimed it would lead to “deaths” from suicides and depression. "I'm sure that we have doctors that would say 'let's keep it closed for two years,'" Trump said. “No, we got to get it open.

"This cure is worse than the problem."

Ravaged in recent days, stocks climbed Tuesday as negotiators signaled a resolution was in sight. At issue is an unprecedented economic rescue package that would give direct payments to most Americans, expanded unemployment benefits, and a $350 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. A point of contention has been $500 billion for guaranteed loans to larger industries.

»MORE: Whats in the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package?

A one-time payment of $1,200 per person, or $3,000 for a family of four, would go directly to the public.

Hospitals could get up to $200 billion for the expected influx of sick patients, said Mnuchin.

On Monday night, Trump also said he wants to reopen the nation for business in weeks, not months, and said continued closures could result in more deaths than the pandemic itself.

"We can't have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump told reporters at a briefing Monday, echoing a midnight Sunday tweet. "We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."

Tempers flared on Capitol Hill on Monday between Republicans and Democrats. GOP leaders had created a coronavirus stimulus package that Democrats claimed was aimed at corporations and tax relief, rather than working Americans.

Democrats, led by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then released their own package. Trump and Republican leaders immediately alleged was full of "last minute ideological demands," according to the National Review, such as liberal special interests, such as increased fuel emissions standards for airlines and expanding wind and solar tax credits.

Democrats on Monday blocked action for a second straight day on an over $1 trillion economic plan to offset the impact of the coronavirus, as the Senate floor turned into an unusually heated verbal battleground, as Democrats accused the GOP of pressing a huge Wall Street bailout, while Republicans said Democrats were risking an implosion of the economy by slowing action.

»MORE: Federal Reserve to lend up to $300 billion to businesses cities

Republicans bristled at frequent charges from Democrats that the GOP was pushing a bill which would keep the American public in the dark about $500 billion in loans for the airlines and other major industries.

US Surgeon General warns Americans, 'it's going to get bad this week'

The Atlanta-based 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.

Credit: AJC

Mike Pence to lead task force to combat coronavirus

Credit: AJC

But if the U.S. stops social distancing too soon, "you will have more deaths and more dives in the stock market," warned Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University, a lawyer with extensive public health expertise.

And the outbreak could come surging back once people return to their normal routines of commuting, working, dining out and socializing — further stressing the economy.

Even Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, urged Trump to stick with the advice of public health officials.

Coronavirus Outbreak in US 'Might Be Bad,' Warns CDC On Tuesday, CDC official Dr. Nancy Messonnier urged "the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad." Dr. Nancy Messonnier, via 'The New York Times' Secretary of health and human services, Alex M. Azar II, also made a serious statement regarding the coronavirus on Tuesday. Alex M. Azar II, via 'The New York Times' The secretary stated that more hospital ventilators and as many as 300 million masks will be necessary f

"There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus," he warned on Twitter. "Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can't help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world."

But Stephen Moore, a former Trump economic adviser, said it's time now "to start thinking about what kind of dramatic costs to society are we absorbing from the shutdown," including tens of millions unemployed and potential spikes in drug overdoses and suicides.

He said he has been urging his former colleagues to selectively open the economy in ways that minimize the public health risk with more testing and, for instance, taking people's temperature in public places, as they are now doing in other countries.

"There's no good solutions here. There's just bad solutions," Moore conceded. "And to me, the worst solution is to just grind our economy to a halt."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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