Saving the economy is secondary to saving lives during a pandemic

The president wants the economy “raring to go” by Easter. That’s not only nonsense, it’s life threatening.

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Healthcare workers screen a person seeking a coronavirus test at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.,

Health care workers screen a person seeking a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing site near Detroit.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

You have to wonder what on Earth the president is thinking when he says he wants the country’s economy “opened up and just raring to go” despite a raging pandemic.

Donald Trump said precisely that on the same day that the World Health Organization warned that the United States is on the brink of becoming the global epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak because of the “very large acceleration” of infections here.

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Yet there was the president, hours later, demanding that the nation’s economy be opened up for business by Easter, less than three weeks away.

“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said at a town hall hosted by Fox News. “We can socially distance ourselves and go to work.”

Not only is that nonsense, it’s life threatening.

We’re especially alarmed by Trump’s pronouncements because the most credible scientific voice on the White House coronavirus task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been missing from Trump’s daily briefings. Fauci disappeared after contradicting the president’s false statements about the pandemic.

Public health experts like Fauci insist that the stay-at-home orders and similar restrictions enacted by governors and mayors across the country are our best defense against the spread of the coronavirus.

Now, more than ever, state and local leaders must continue to show the leadership of which Trump has proven incapable. We thought the president might finally be taking a baby step in the right direction when he committed to delivering 300 ventilators and 300,000 protective face masks to our state after a phone conversation with Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday night.

Then came Tuesday’s nutty presidential proclamations.

Trump, no doubt fearing the impact a decimated economy might have on his re-election chances, can demand that the country be “opened up” by April 12.

Yes, Mr. President, millions of Americans could lose their jobs due to the coronavirus.

But saving lives, not jobs or the economy, must be the first priority.

The latest Illinois statistics on COVID-19, announced Tuesday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, are a clear sign that our state cannot let up: Four more deaths, another 250 confirmed cases and 57% of hospital intensive-care beds already in use.

Meanwhile, the global impact is more devastating by the day. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed till next year. India, a country of 1.4 billion, is now on a three-week lockdown. Schools across the U.S. have been shut down, and Kansas and Virginia have already canceled the rest of the school year. Coronavirus cases are doubling every three days in New York State.

The U.S. now has nearly 50,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 615 people have died.

The best advice for the American public: Ignore Trump. Listen to the experts. And stay at home.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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