Anxious to spur an economic recovery without risking lives, U.S. President Donald Trump insists that “you can satisfy both” — see states gradually lift lockdowns while also protecting people from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 67,000 Americans.
The president, fielding questions from Americans Sunday night in a virtual town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, acknowledged valid fears on both sides of the issue. Some people are worried about getting sick; others are reeling from lost jobs and livelihoods.
Trump increased his projection for the total U.S. death toll to as many as 100,000 — up by as much as 40,000 from what he had suggested just a few weeks ago.
“Look, we’re going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people,” Trump said. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person out of this. This should have been stopped in China.”
But he struck a note of urgency to restart the nation’s economy, declaring, “We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible.”
After more than a month of being cooped up at the White House, Trump returned from a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland for the virtual town hall hosted by Fox News Channel.
The president said of his monumental backdrop: “We never had a more beautiful set than this.”
As concerns mount about his reelection bid, Trump stuck to his relentlessly optimistic view of the nation’s ability to rebound soon.
“It is all working out,” Trump said. “It is horrible to go through, but it is working out.”
Many public health experts believe the nation cannot safely reopen fully until a vaccine is developed. Trump declared Sunday that he believed one could be available by year’s end.
U.S. public health officials have said a vaccine is probably a year to 18 months away. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, said in late April that it is conceivable, if a vaccine is soon developed, that it could be in wide distribution as early as January.
Though the administration’s handling of the pandemic, particularly its ability to conduct widespread testing, has come under fierce scrutiny, the president tried to shift the blame to China and said the U.S. was ready to begin reopening.
“I’ll tell you one thing. We did the right thing and I really believe we saved a million and a half lives,” the president said. But he also broke with the assessment of his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, saying it was “too soon to say” the federal government had overseen a “success story.”
While noting that states would go at their own pace in returning to normal, with ones harder hit by the coronavirus going slower, Trump said that “some states, frankly, I think aren’t going fast enough.” He singled out Virginia, which has a Democratic governor and legislature. And he urged the nation’s schools and universities to return to classes this fall.
Federal guidelines that encouraged people to stay at home and practice social distancing expired late last week.
Debate continued over moves by governors to start reopening state economies that tanked after shopping malls, salons and other nonessential businesses were ordered closed in attempt to slow a virus that has killed more than 66,000 Americans, according to a tally of reported deaths by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. economy has suffered, shrinking at a 4.8% annual rate from January through March, the government estimated last week. And roughly 30.3 million people have filed for unemployment aid in the six weeks since the outbreak forced employers to shut down and slash their workforces.
The president’s advisers have nervously watched Trump’s support slip in a number of battleground states and he was told last month that if the election were held that day, he would lose to Democrat Joe Biden. The president’s aides believe restarting the economy, even with its health risks, is essential to a victory in November and are pushing for him to pivot away from discussions about the pandemic and onto an American comeback story.
To that end, Trump will begin travelling again, with a trip to a mask factory in Arizona planned for Tuesday. The president also is set to speak in June at commencement for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Returning to campus for commencement will require graduates to self-isolate for 14 days, but Trump insisted the event poses no risk to the cadets.
The town hall, which included an appearance by Vice-President Mike Pence, included a rare mea culpa: The vice-president said he should have worn a face mask during a visit last week to Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. Pence’s failure to wear a mask violated the clinic’s guidelines and drew significant criticism.
Elsewhere in Washington, the Senate planned to reopen Monday, despite the area’s continued status as a virus hot spot and with the region still under stay-at-home orders. The House remains shuttered as debate continues on what the next stage of the economic recovery may look like.
State and local governments are seeking up to $1 trillion in coronavirus costs, which has been met with some objections by congressional Republicans.
Trump said that while he thought common ground could be found with Democrats over an infrastructure package, “we’re not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut. That is so important to the success of our country.”
The leaders of California and Michigan are among governors under public pressure over lockdowns still in effect while states such as Florida, Georgia and Ohio are reopening.
Trump on Sunday night singled out Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, also a Democrat, for criticism even as he praised the federal co-ordination with most governors. He also complained that some Democrats would rather “people get sick” than given him any credit for pushing the use of a malaria drug for treating COVID-19, though it has not been proven to be safe and effective for that use.
Lemire reported from New York
Quebec looks to revive economy weakened by coronavirus crisis by fast tracking infrastructure projects – Global News
Quebec is looking to ramp up 202 infrastructure projects across the province in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic’s toll on the economy.
Bill 61, known as an “Act to restart Quebec’s economy and to mitigate the consequences of the public health emergency” due to the COVID-19 crisis, was unveiled by the government on Wednesday.
As part of the plan, the government wants to accelerate the construction of schools, seniors’ homes, roads and public transit systems. If passed, the bill will allow some projects to be fast tracked without all the regular procedures in place.
Treasury Board President Christian Dubé said the province wants to help people and sectors recover during the health crisis as lockdown measures implemented in March are slowly eased. He insisted that rigor will still be used when it comes to doling out contracts.
“We will not go against laws or regulations,” he said, adding the bill will permit for certain authorizations to be given more quickly.
The proposed legislation will revive the economy and allow for a less bureaucratic process, according to Dubé.
“We know we were all weathering an unusual storm,” he said.
Under the plan, about 90 infrastructure projects would be ramped up in the health sector, including construction on 48 seniors’ homes. This also includes renovation plans for hospitals in Montreal, such as the renovation and expansion of Lachine Hospital.
In the education sector, about 39 projects would be fast tracked. This includes the construction of new elementary and high schools as well as the expansion of other academic institutions such as Dawson College in Montreal.
When it comes to roads and public transit, the Legault government is looking at accelerating about 50 projects. This includes the long-awaited extension to the Montreal Metro’s blue line.
Finance Minister Eric Girard described the situation as “exceptional” when outlining the details of the bill alongside Dubé.
Girard also announced that he will provide an update on the province’s finances on June 19, but warned that the pandemic has had a grip on the economy.
“This year is going to be a negative year,” he said. “The worst year for the economy since World War Two.”
The announcement comes as Quebec saw 291 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, on Wednesday. It leads the country with 51,884 infections.
The death toll stands at 4,794 after 81 more fatalities were reported from the previous day.
As of Wednesday, the number of hospitalizations decreased by 34 for a total of 1,141. There are 158 people in intensive care.
— With files from the Canadian Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Mayor Watson asks province to consider local reopening of economy – Ottawa Citizen
Mayor Jim Watson has asked Premier Doug Ford to consider reopening the City of Ottawa’s economy as part of a regional approach to relaxing COVID-19 restrictions.
“Mayor Watson spoke to Premier Ford last night and expressed his support for a more regional approach given our city is doing better than many other parts of the province,” Watson’s press secretary Patrick Champagne said Wednesday morning.
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“As you know, we also have the added challenge of being a border city, creating an unlevel playing field, as businesses like hair salons and barber shops have reopened in Gatineau but not in Ottawa. Premier Ford fully understood our dilemma and committed to keeping the Mayor’s perspective in mind as they consider a regional approach to reopening the Ontario economy.”
Ford last week expressed interest in a regional approach to reopening Ontario’s economy based on COVID-19 testing and results, rather than tweak provincial emergency orders and have the rules apply to the entire province.
US services index shows biggest part of economy is stirring – BNNBloomberg.ca
U.S. service providers started to emerge in May from a pandemic-induced tailspin as nationwide lockdowns on business and social interaction began to lift.
The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its non-manufacturing index rose 3.6 points to 45.4.
While the monthly increase was the largest in more than two years, the gauge remained below the 50 mark that shows most service-related industries continued to contract.
The purchasing managers group’s gauge of business activity, which parallels the ISM’s factory production index, jumped 15 points, the most in records dating back to 1997, to a still-tepid 41. Along with an improvement in new orders, the figures are a welcome sign that the economy is stabilizing and will gradually recover from a deep recession.
The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for an improvement to 44.4 in the overall non-manufacturing index.
The report, however, also showed the labor market remains severely disrupted by the pandemic. The ISM measure of employment at services, which represent almost 90 per cent of the economy, only rose 1.8 points from the worst reading on record in April.
A Labor Department report on Friday is projected to show another 8 million decline in May payrolls after an unprecedented 20.5 million slump in April. The unemployment rate is forecast to soar to nearly 20 per cent.
A pickup in demand as states lift lockdowns and businesses begin to reopen is needed to help stabilize the job market. The ISM’s report showed an index orders at service providers climbed 9 points to a still-weak 41.9.
Meanwhile, the index of supplier deliveries in non-manufacturing industries fell for the first time in four months, indicating an easing in supply-chain bottlenecks and transportation delays.
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