“There is no amount of money that can make up for losses of the magnitude we are facing if this extends for several more weeks,” the piece said. “If this government-ordered shutdown continues for much more than another week or two, the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most Americans imagine.”
The Trump administration has stressed that two weeks of strict social distancing will help avoid an overwhelming crush of patients at hospitals that are already struggling with resource shortages. Trump’s advisers have said they will reassess those guidelines around the end of the month.
Yet in recent days, there have been signs that the situation is growing more dire in hard-hit areas, including California and New York. Both states have issued stay-at-home orders, and other states, such as Connecticut, New Jersey and Illinois, are following suit. Health care professionals are also scrounging for basic medical equipment, such as masks, to protect themselves — a shortage the Trump administration has vowed to address.
More hardline Trump supporters claim the media and Democrats are still putting much of the pressure on Trump to fully stall the economy, even as other countries take similar steps and Republican governors implement economic restrictions almost identical to those of Democratic governors.
Conservative commentator Candace Owens initially urged at-risk elderly people to quarantine themselves instead of shutting down bars and restaurants — an assertion health officials warn is dangerous because it ignores the fact that people of all ages are falling severely ill from this disease.
“Life does not mean ‘you get to live forever,’” Owens said during a March 16th Periscope stream, calling the “mass hysteria” surrounding coronavirus a media-driven “social experiment” that showed how much personal liberty people — particularly ostensible small-government conservatives — would shed during a crisis.
“The majority of Americans are not reacting in a way that you think that they should be acting because you’re fearful,” she said. “And if you believe in freedom, freedom doesn’t suddenly stop when you get scared.”
A segment of American voters, particularly those who sided with Trump through the past three years of scandals, agree.
“We’re Americans, right? We don’t live in a communist country, nor do we have to stay indoors,” said Katie Williams, a Las Vegas woman running for Carson County school board, citing Owens as an influence
Williams blamed the media and liberals for pushing things this far.
“I mean, we are just one step away from communism at that point, you know?” she said. “With this media hype about the coronavirus, I think a lot of more democratic politicians, local politicians, are trying to push that agenda into more of a communist rule.”
Williams’ commentary went viral last week when she fired off a snarky tweet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in defiance of the popular progressive’s plea for people to stop going to restaurants.
“I just went to a crowded Red Robin and I’m 30,” Williams tweeted. “It was delicious and I took my sweet time eating my meal. Because this is America. And I’ll do what I want.”
Williams does not believe her tweet was endangering public health.
“I don’t have it. I haven’t been exposed to anyone who has it,” she said to Politico. “I don’t have any elderly people in my 10-foot radius of where I would go. And so when people were like, ‘You’re irresponsible, you’re out there spreading it,’ I’m like, ‘I can’t spread it if I don’t have it.’”
Health officials have pushed back against such logic, cautioning that younger people may not realize they’re infected and contagious.
Still, Williams said that her tweet was simply meant to underline the hypocrisy of Ocasio-Cortez’s statement days earlier that “racism” was behind people avoiding Chinese restaurants after the disease originated in China.
To this point, the Trump administration has taken several steps to keep Americans afloat during the crisis, delaying the tax filing deadline and suspending federal student loan payments for 60 days. The White House is also negotiating a massive stimulus package that could top $2 trillion and include loans to businesses and one-off payments to people.
In a comment to Politico, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign touted recent polling showing that the public largely approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. “President Trump ignited the American economy once before. He is clearly the leader to restore our position once we are through this crisis. Joe Biden would undo all of the hard work that built the economy,” they said.
For Trump voters, and the wider universe of people who generally support Trump, the tug-of-war between acting in the interest of public health and keeping Americans financially secure is only likely to grow stronger.
“People diverge on severity of crisis versus economic cost,” Reaboi said. “It’s a real issue. Anyone who’s not taking that balance seriously is an idiot.”
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