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President Donald Trump told governors on a conference call Monday that he "will step in" if the federal government does not agree with a given state's plan of reopening. This comes as Trump largely commended states on their efforts to relax restrictions, according to CBS News.
The Trump administration released guidelines that were meant to dictate when states should begin relaxing stay-at-home orders and other social distancing protocols meant to stem the spread of the virus. Trump is very interested in the rapid reopening of the US economy after months of shutdown. Democratic governors have been pushing back against these efforts.
Trump said in an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that his critics want him to keep the economy closed until the November election, subsequently calling Democrats' reluctance to lift coronavirus measures a "political thing."
"The governors are making their decisions, and want to make their decisions, and that's the way I want it to, and we will step in if we see something going wrong, or if we disagree, and some people say that's nice, and some people say I shouldn't be doing that, but we're going to do it if we see something wrong," Trump said to the governors Monday on a conference call.
Trump continued by saying: "If you have any problem, let me know please, but it seems that the governors are largely happy. And I think I can say extraordinarily happy with respect to what we've done."
The conference was a portion of a weekly series of call between the president and governors. Monday's teleconference also featured first lady Melania Trump joining the conversation, to urge the governors to focus on "mental health and how we can partner with each of your states to support all Americans—especially children."
Trump has been at the center of controversy for claims that his desire to open the economy are happening too quickly. His initial goal was to relax restrictions by Easter, but circumstances surrounding the coronavirus contagion altered those plans.
The restrictions have caused a number of businesses to file bankruptcy, with a staggering 36 million people losing their jobs and tanking the stock market. The stay-at-home orders have also taken a toll on students, who have been forced to say home, while barring "non-essential" workers from supporting themselves and their families.
The White House's reopening guidelines ask that states remain closed until they see a decline in positive coronavirus tests for two consecutive weeks. At that point, they may consider the first stage of reopening. This was a guideline that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci emphasized as being important, and Trump has backed that claim.
Fauci has also suggested that opening too quickly could lead to avoidable "suffering and death"—a stance that Rand Paul and Dave Portnoy have criticized in the last couple weeks, given that modeling data has not panned out as expected.
Fauci has declined to take a hard stance on whether schools should open in the fall, but has made the point that a vaccine would not play a part in the decision.
"So [Fauci] is a good person, a very good person — I've disagreed with him,” Trump said. “We have to get the schools open, we have to get our country open, we have to open our country. Now we want to do it safely, but we also want to do it as quickly as possible, we can't keep going on like this… You're having bedlam already in the streets, you can't do this. We have to get it open. I totally disagree with him on schools."
Democratic governors have intended to keep their restrictions in place, referring to public health concerns, despite prodding from protesters and the president to reopen the states' economies.
"I’ve been focused on doing my job, and I’m going to keep doing that and I’m not going to apologize about that. I’m not changing the way I run this state because of some protests," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an exclusive interview with Fox News on Monday.
"We are in the third phase of a six-phase process to bring life back to normal,” she said. “But we have to be careful as we’ve had a really bad experience with Covid-19."
Some have criticized Whitmer's approach by not listening to the people in her own state. Trump has been among her critics.
The Wisconsin Supereme Court last week shot down Democratic Governor Tony Evers' coronavirus restrictions, stating that his administration had overstepped its bounds by implementing them unilaterally.
"Republican legislators have convinced 4 justices to throw our state into chaos," he said. "We cannot let today's ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months."
Washingtonians have also shot back against Governor Jay Inslee's intensive restrictions.
At the time of this writing, every state in the US has taken some measures to reopen their economy, with Connecticut and Massachusetts moving the slowest. Washington DC remains almost entirely shut down. New York, epicentre of the largest outbreak in the nation, is struggling with its reopening as New Yorkers are aching to return to their normal, non-stop lives.