Why Trump's ambitious plans to restart the economy could run into a buzzsaw fast

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A woman wearing a mask walks past closed stores in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., on April 15, 2020.Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty Images

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — Talk about putting the cart before the horse — or, in this case, the cure before the disease has fully run its course.

For all of the discussion to reopen the economy — including by May 1 for some low-impacted areas, per a White House draft plan — there are three reasons why that could be premature.

1. There simply aren’t enough tests for the country’s 300 million Americans.

“Nationally, an average of 145,000 people have been tested for the virus each day over the past week, according to the Covid Tracking Project,” the New York Times writes.

In total, the United States has administered 3.26 million tests, which comes to just 1 percent of the nation’s population.

2. There isn’t a detailed, coordinated, Marshall Plan-like effort to reopen the economy.

NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece reports that the draft White House plan to reopen parts of the U.S. economy is just 10 pages long, and it doesn’t offer any metrics to inform communities.

That isn’t going to cut it.

Any effort to reopen the country is going to require careful coordination — and lots of money. It’s going to have to be a "mobilization akin to World War II,” Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale, tells NBC’s Benjy Sarlin. (More from Benjy’s reporting is below.)

3. Reopening too soon could lead to a resurgence of new cases.

Just look at what’s happened in South Dakota, a state where there is no stay-at-home order.

“Over 500 employees at the Smithfield pork-processing plant [there] have tested positive for the virus, and the factory, which employs 3,700 people, was shuttered until further notice over the weekend,” per NBC News.

“We are just at the plateau part of the curve,” virologist Dr. Joseph Fair said on “Today” this morning.

What needs to happen is for the United States to begin see the curve actually decrease, which might take another two to six months, Fair added.

So before you reopen the economy, you need many more tests, a coordinated plan with lots of money attached to it, and an actual decrease in the country’s curve.

Minority Report

It’s also worth noting that those who are calling to reopen the economy ASAP represent a minority of the country.

Overwhelming majorities of both Republicans and Democrats seem to be erring on the side of caution, even if Republicans are slightly less likely than Democrats to wholeheartedly embrace social distancing restrictions.

In a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll out yesterday, 89 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans said the U.S. “should continue to social distance for as long as is needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, even if it means continued damage to the economy.”

In a Gallup poll released Tuesday, a combined 89 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans said they won’t immediately return to normal life even after the government lifts restrictions, with most saying they want to wait and see what happens with the virus before resuming their regular routines.

And in a Monmouth poll that came out last week, just 3 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of Republicans said their state government had gone too far in taking measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

Bottom line: All of the voices calling the reopen the country immediately — regardless of the consequences — represent a just a sliver of the country.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

639,099: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 29,656 more than yesterday morning.)

32,249: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,568 more than yesterday morning).

3.26 million: The number of coronavirus TESTS that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

At least 5,670: The number of coronavirus deaths from nursing homes, according to state health data gathered by NBC News.

More than 1.4 million: The number of loans that had been approved under the Paycheck Protection Program as of last night, according to the Small Business Administration.

About a quarter: The share of workers in Michigan now trying to obtain unemployment aid.

$9.7 billion: New York City’s expected loss in revenue due to coronavirus, according to a watchdog group’s analysis.

35 percent: The share of Americans who say that taking a vacation 500+ miles away from home is a priority for them and their family in the next year, according to a new online poll from the Sports and Leisure Research Group, Engagious and ROKK Solutions. That’s compared to 50 percent who said the same in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

Talking policy with Benjy

You’d never know it from the president’s daily fights over when to open the economy and under whose authority, but there’s fairly wide agreement among public health experts and economists about how to go about it, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports.

“I think we’ve reached peak consensus,” Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale, told NBC News. “Everyone is saying the same thing.”

Think tanks from the center-right American Enterprise Institute to the center-left Center for American Progress, have put out plans for reopening the country. Some governors, like California's Gavin Newsom and Maryland’s Larry Hogan, are beginning to follow suit. The details differ, but they broadly follow the same formula: Drive infections down to a sustained low, then make sure there’s a robust system to test for new cases, identify those they may have infected, and isolate them until they can be cleared, all while financially and medically supporting those affected.

In addition to producing vastly more masks, protective equipment, and tests, states and cities would need to train and equip thousands of new health care workers to administer them. Some plans include using smartphones to anonymously alert users who have been exposed to infection, an idea Apple and Google are working on but raises civil liberties concerns. Multiple plans call for repurposing hotels or dorms to quarantine individuals.

2020 Vision: Elizabeth Warren becomes latest Dem to endorse Biden

First came Bernie Sanders’ endorsement. Then Barack Obama’s. And now Elizabeth Warren’s.

"In this moment of crisis, it is more important than ever that the next president restores Americans' faith in good, effective government," Warren said yesterday, per NBC’s Ali Vitali and Ben Kamisar.

"Joe Biden has spent nearly his entire life in public service. He knows that a government run with integrity, confidence and heart will save lives and save livelihoods."

The question we have this morning: What’s Warren’s next act?

Is it as Ted Kennedy-like figure in the Senate? Someone who has a lot of say about Joe Biden’s Treasury Department, if he wins? Or maybe as Biden’s VP?

Warren told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last night that she’d be Biden’s VP if he asked.

The one hitch: Democrats could lose a Senate seat — for at least a few months — if Warren has to step down, because Massachusetts has a Republican governor.

Tweet of the day

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From Ben Kamisar: Bluegrass Battle: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing likely the best-funded challenger of his political career. And even if he’s still in the driver’s seat in the red-leaning state, it’s clear his team is taking no chances.

His campaign has released three separate TV spots during the coronavirus pandemic, including one that debuted Wednesday that aims to frame Democrat Amy McGrath as focused on attacks while McConnell is leading in the Senate.

McConnell has spent $1.7 million on TV and radio ads so far this cycle, according to Advertising Analytics. But McGrath has spent over $5 million, with one of her top ads criticizing McConnell’s “victory lap” on coronavirus.

Running on empty?

NBC’s Capitol Hill team reported Wednesday that the money in the last phase of coronavirus relief allocated for small businesses is running out. Per our Hill team, multiple Republican sources said Wednesday the funds could be exhausted by Wednesday evening.

This came after a 1:00 p.m. ET Wednesday update from the Small Business Administration showing over $300 billion of the $350 billion had been spoken for. Aides in both parties had previously been operating under the assumption the money would last through Friday — which would potentially give lawmakers a chance to pass a bill in pro forma sessions scheduled Thursday and Friday. You can read more about that here.

But the stalemate the Republicans and Democrats have been locked in shows signs of breaking. Senate aides told our team that they are increasingly optimistic that they can pass a bill before the end of the week, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters he thinks Republicans aren’t at issue with the substance of their requests, just the process.

And while President Trump said at his coronavirus task force briefing yesterday that he would consider adjourning the Senate so that he could make recess appointments (since the Senate hasn’t been using this time to install nominees), Mitch McConnell is saying not so fast — this from his office: “Leader McConnell had a conversation today with the president to discuss Senate Democrats’ unprecedented obstruction of the president’s well-qualified nominees and shared his continued frustration with the process. The Leader pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical to the COVID-19 pandemic, but under Senate rules that will take consent from Leader Schumer.”

The Lid: For the love of money

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what a pandemic might mean for campaign fundraising.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash says he’ll decide soon about whether he’ll run for president as a third-party candidate.

The New York Times reports on how quickly the Democratic establishment has embraced Bernie Sanders now that he’s out of the 2020 race.

Ivanka Trump and her family traveled to New Jersey for Passover, defying stay-at-home guidance.

Thom Tillis says Richard Burr “owes everyone an explanation” on his pre-Covid stock moves.