President Donald Trump on Friday called on his supporters to “liberate” three states whose governors are Democrats, apparently encouraging growing protests against confinement ordered to reduce coronavirus infections.
A day after establishing a plan to gradually reopen the battered economy, Trump turned to Twitter with the kind of rhetoric that some of his supporters have used to demand that the orders be lifted that have left millions of Americans unemployed.
“Free Minnesota!” “Free Michigan!” “Free Virginia!” He said in a series of tweets in which he also lashed out at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for criticizing the federal response to the pandemic. Cuomo “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining’,” the president said.
In response to requests from the governors for Washington to help them increase the volume of testing for the virus, Trump told them: “States have to increase their testing!”
The president has repeatedly expressed his desire for businesses to reopen quickly, and a few days ago stated that he has full authority over the matter, despite the confinements and other measures of social distancing have been imposed by state and local leaders. not for Washington.
The president released a three-step set of guidelines Thursday to ease restrictions over several weeks in places where many tests are taking place and cases of the COVID-19 disease are dropping, assuring the nation’s governors: “You are going to make your own decisions.”
The governors of both parties hinted on Friday that they will be cautious in returning to normal, and some of them warned that they cannot do so if Washington does not help them expand the volume of evidence.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has criticized the government’s response to the crisis, acknowledged that people are “very anxious” about their livelihood and concerned about having to pay rent while out of work.
“But the last thing I want to do is have a second wave here, so we have to be really smart,” he said.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican Trump ally, backed the White House plan, but clearly specified that he will listen to medical experts in deciding how to move forward. He said more testing is required before any restrictions can be lifted.
“I am not going to do something that I feel in my heart that is wrong, that is going to put our people at risk,” he said.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee went further, saying on Friday that Trump’s tweets about “freeing” states put millions of Americans at risk of contracting COVID-19, and “could lead to violence.”
Other states did take a few small steps to relax the restrictions.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis gave municipalities the green light to reopen beaches and parks if they can safely do so. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said stores can start selling on sidewalks, nonessential surgeries can be resumed, and state parks can be reopened.
The University of Washington, whose computer models have been frequently cited by health authorities at White House press conferences, predicted Friday that Vermont, West Virginia, Montana and Hawaii could reopen from May 4 if they restrict large concentrations of people, massively test and quarantine the contacts of people who test positive.
However, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas and Oklahoma are among the states that should wait at least until the first days of June to reopen their economy, and all should evaluate the capacity of their systems of public health to handle the outbreaks, the institute noted.
Worldwide, the coronavirus has spread to more than 2.2 million people and killed more than 150,000, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University based on figures from government health authorities around the globe, although it is increasingly evident that the real numbers are much higher.
The official death toll in the United States is close to 35,000, with some 685,000 confirmed infections.
The confinements have inflicted heavy damage on the economies of all countries. In the United States, the crisis has left at least 22 million Americans unemployed, raising the unemployment rate to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Many Americans, especially in rural areas and other parts of the country where there have been no serious outbreaks, have urged governors to reopen state economies. There have been demonstrations in Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Michigan, where more than 3,000 people attended what looked like a President’s rally on Wednesday, in which flags waved with his face and caps bearing his motto “Let’s make America great again.”
The protests continued on Friday, including one outside the home of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and another in Idaho, where the governor is a Republican.
Public health experts have warned that, if the restrictions are relaxed, this must be accompanied by an expansion in testing and tracking of infected people to prevent the virus from returning with even worse intensity.