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Trump considers reopening economy against experts' advice

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, on March 23, 2020, in Washington.Alex Brandon / AP

WASHINGTON — So who are you going to believe — the scientists and health professionals, or President Trump?

That’s the question facing the country after Trump said he was considering re-opening large parts of the country ASAP to restart the economy.

"America will again and soon be open for business very soon. Lot sooner than three or four months somebody was suggesting,” the president said at his news conference yesterday. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem. ... This was a medical problem. We are not going to let it turn into a long lasting financial problem."

More Trump: “You look at automobile accidents that are far greater [in yearly fatalities], but doesn’t mean we won’t tell people not to drive cars.”

Compare that with what Dr. Anthony Fauci — the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who was notably absent from yesterday’s White House press briefing — said late last week:

“If you look at the trajectory of the curves of outbreaks and other areas, at least going to be several weeks,” Fauci told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on “Today” last Friday. “I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now it's going to be over. I don't think there's a chance of that. I think it's going to be several weeks.”

“Now is the time to tighten restrictions on contacts that could transmit the virus, not loosen them,” Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch told the Washington Post. “If we let up now, we can be virtually certain that health care will be overwhelmed in many if not all parts of the country.”

“This is the view of every well-informed infectious epidemiologist I know of,” Lipsitch added.

The amazing disconnect here is that Trump’s comments on re-opening the economy came when the nation saw 100-plus fatalities and nearly 10,000 more confirmed coronavirus cases – in a single day.

And when the surgeon general of the United States warned, "I want America to understand this week, it's going to get bad."

How the coronavirus has turned into an MRI on American’s values

And it wasn’t just President Trump who was talking about re-opening the U.S. economy. Consider what Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said last night:

“Those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick said in urging the country to “get back to work.”

What do people value more in society? The country’s GDP, or their grandparents’ health? Getting Wall Street humming again, or the well-being of their medical infrastructure?

What is their north star?

The spread of the coronavirus — just weeks into it — has turned into a revealing MRI on Americans’ different values.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

44,795: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 9,852 more than yesterday morning.)

550: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 104 more than yesterday morning).

About 303,000: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project. (That’s about 64,000 more than yesterday morning.)

9: That’s the number of states and territories that have postponed their primary contests due to coronavirus so far. They are: Ohio, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Louisiana, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Indiana and Kentucky. Several other states are poised to move their contests or have eliminated in-person voting in favor of a mail ballot.

At least 158 million: That’s about the number of people in the United States who are under orders to stay home except for essential trips.

50 percent: That’s the share of Americans who say that Trump has done a “good job” dealing with the coronavirus crisis, according to a new Monmouth poll. (But compare that to 72 percent who say their state’s governor has done a good job.)

3 weeks: That’s the length of the new lockdown in the U.K. announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday.

Let’s make a deal

"Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said late Monday that they were nearing a deal on a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package to help American workers and businesses survive the coronavirus outbreak,” per NBC’s Rebecca Shabad and Tsirkin.

“‘I think we've made a lot of progress,’ Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill just before midnight after emerging from negotiations. ‘There's still a couple of open issues, but I think we're very hopeful that this can be closed out (Tuesday).’”

And/but Trump tweeted this last night: “Republicans had a deal until Nancy Pelosi rode into town from her extended vacation. The Democrats want the Virus to win? They are asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies. They want Open Borders & Green New Deal. Republicans shouldn’t agree!”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night refiled a motion that would set up a cloture vote for Wednesday – as a reminder, this motion needs 60 votes before the actual bill can get voted on. While the vote would be preliminarily set for Wednesday, Republican leadership is hoping another deal comes together before then. Per our NBC News Capitol Hill team, if the party leadership can reach an agreement between now and the cloture vote, the Senate can move straight to a final vote on a deal by unanimous consent. An aide to Republican leadership told our Hill team that’s the goal – “I think we just wait for a deal, then things could come together fast.”

2020 Vision: Biden to hold “virtual” press briefing

Joe Biden today will hold his first virtual briefing with reporters in this brave new world of campaigning after the spread of coronavirus, NBC’s Marianne Sotomayor reports. The time is TBD.

Biden’s other recent activities away from the direct campaign trail: He held a press call with reporters on Friday, and he held his first on-camera remarks from his newly installed home TV studio Monday morning. “For those keeping track,” Sotomayor says, “Biden has now held three virtual events where he delivered remarks, two calls and three virtual fundraisers in the last two weeks.”

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders spoke last night with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, who asked the Vermont senator about the state of his campaign.

Sanders’ answer: He’s taking things “day-by-day,” per NBC’s Gary Grumbach.

“So, what we are doing is transitioning our campaign to a virtual campaign. We had a wonderful town meeting [Sunday night] with several of the leading members of the Congress, which I thought was very productive, and a large viewing audience. So, we’re coming -- kind of moving day by day.”

Ad watch: Dem Super PAC goes after Trump on the coronavirus

From NBC's Ben Kamisar: Priorities USA, one of the leading Democratic Super PACs, is going right at Trump with a new spot that paints the president as inadequately addressing and preparing for the sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

The group’s ad, part of a $6 million TV and digital campaign, splices together Trump’s comments over the past few weeks behind a graphic that shows an exponentially increasing caseload. The spot ends with Trump’s response earlier this month when he was asked about the delays in testing: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

The ad is set to run starting Tuesday in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Click here to read more from the MTP Blog.

The Lid: Rain check

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at the states who are moving their primaries amid the coronavirus concerns.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Mike Bloomberg may face a class action lawsuit over breaking his pledge to keep his staff on through November.

The ACA just turned 10. What comes next for it?

A court says that Donald Trump can’t block his critics on Twitter.

POLITICO looks at the challenges Joe Biden faces trying to find a bully pulpit.

Will there be a Democratic National Convention?

Bernie Sanders won big in the Democrats Abroad contest.

Biden won a major endorsement from AFSCME.