Donald Trump confessed on Tuesday during a virtual Fox News town hall that the decision to “close down” the US in response to the threat of COVID-19 was “one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.”
The White House initiated an unprecedented 15-day near-complete shutdown of the nation in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 over a week ago, throwing the nation’s economy into chaos.
He explained that in the early days of the pandemic, “We just signed a trade deal. We are the number one in the world by far. And now a few people walk into the Oval Office and say, ‘Sir, we have to close up the country.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’”
“One of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Because I knew as soon as you do it, whenever you do it, you are going to drop — they are talking about 20 or 25 points of GDP. Nobody’s ever heard of 25 points. If we went down one point, that’s a big deal. All the sudden you are basically turning off the country. I said, ‘This has never been done before,'” he said.
The last week has been fraught with uncertainty as the White House scrambled to come up with a long-term plan. Trump indicated during the town hall that the shutdown cannot last forever, saying that he wants to “have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
“We can destroy our country this way by closing it down. You’re gonna lose more people by putting the country into a massive recession or depression. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands,” he concluded.
Indeed, James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said Sunday that he fears the nation’s unemployment rate could reach 30% in the second quarter and GDP could drop 50% as a result of extensive lockdowns.