President Trump said the United States will not shut down again if a second wave of coronavirus cases hits the country.
Trump made the pledge while touring a Ford Motor Co. plant outside of Detroit on Thursday. The plant was converted from automobile manufacturing to ventilator production during the pandemic.
Trump spoke with reporters after touring the facility and fielded a question on what the strategy would be to combat a second wave of coronavirus infections in the fall or winter.
“People say it’s a very distinct possibility. It’s standard. And we’re going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country, we’re going to put out the fires,” Trump said, as reported by CNBC. “Whether it is an ember or a flame, we are going to put it out, but we’re not closing our country.”
Throughout the pandemic, the president has left the decision to shut down or not up to the governors of each state. Although he weighed in on some states’ policies, the administration refrained from giving any direct orders and instead chose to offer assistance as requested.
Now, as Trump urges states to reopen, the Department of Justice has begun to push states to adopt more aggressive reopening plans by threatening lawsuits for violating Americans’ civil liberties. The DOJ sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week saying that the state’s shutdown and reopening plans unfairly targeted houses of worship.
Attorney General William Barr directed the DOJ in an April 27 memo to look for instances of states being too harsh with lockdown orders or reopening too slowly.
“These kinds of restrictions have been necessary in order to stop the spread of a deadly disease — but there is no denying that they have imposed tremendous burdens on the daily lives of all Americans,” Barr wrote. “Now, I am directing each of our United States Attorneys to also be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”
Even without pressure from the DOJ, it remains unclear how feasible a second round of lockdowns would be. Unemployment data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday shows that roughly 39 million workers have lost their jobs or paychecks since mid-March. The lockdowns have sparked large protests from California to New York.
Businesses, churches, and local officials have begun pushing back against governors that are slow to lift lockdowns. In Texas, a salon owner was arrested and put in jail for opening her business against the lockdown order, sparking a national outcry against heavy-handed restrictions. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the salon owner released from jail and rolled back restrictions on salons and barbershops.
In Michigan, a barber in Owasso has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown order for weeks. Seventy-seven-year-old Karly Manke has refused to close his shop despite receiving several fines and having his license to operate revoked by state health officials. Local officials in Owosso have refused to grant or enforce state orders against the barber.