The head of the Food and Drug Administration said Sunday that it’s “too early” to tell whether May 1, a date reportedly proposed by President Donald Trump and some of his advisers, is a realistic target for beginning to reopen the U.S. economy.
Stephen Hahn, an oncologist who was sworn in as FDA commissioner in December, was asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether Trump would be taking a “big risk” if he were to ease social distancing guidelines now. Public health officials have warned of a renewed surge in coronavirus infections if the measures are loosened too early.
“The public safety and the welfare of the American people has to come first,” Hahn said. “That’s been the constant message from the president, the vice president and within the task force itself. So, that has to ultimately drive these decisions.”
When asked if May 1 is a “good target” for starting to reopen the economy, Hahn said it’s “a target” but that it’s “too early” to predict whether it’s a realistic one.
“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “We see the incredible resiliency of the American people with respect to social distancing, hand-washing and all of those mitigation factors. So, that gives me great hope. But I think it’s just too early for us to say whether May 1 is that date.”
As the White House weighs whether to extend social distancing guidelines set to expire at the end of April, some federal health officials have signaled that mitigation efforts still may be necessary to effectively curb the spread of the virus.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News on Friday that many parts of the country would not be ready to reopen on May 1.
“Most of the country will not, to be honest with you, but some will,” Adams said. “That’s how we’ll reopen the country: place by place, bit by bit, based on the data.”
Some U.S. officials, including Hahn, have said the country appears to be approaching the potential “peak” of infections. However, Anthony Fauci, the White House coronavirus task force’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday that it’s not time to be “pulling back at all.”
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bower (D) on Sunday brushed off Trump’s push to reopen the country, telling “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that she planned to follow the data when deciding whether to relax restrictions.
“The most optimistic models demonstrate ― and the ones that the White House task force has pointed to repeatedly ― are based on keeping stay-at-home directives in place through the end of May,” Bowser said.
Wallace asked Bowser if she was suggesting that she wouldn’t follow Trump’s direction.
“I’m saying that we’re going to follow what the data on the ground tells us,” the mayor said. “As we have heard directly, the president hasn’t issued any stay-at-home orders for any jurisdiction in the United States of America. We are looking at our own experience in Washington, D.C.”
“We know we can’t just flip a switch and have everything go back to normal,” she added, “because if we do that we could suffer a rebound and lose all of the gains that we made by strict social distancing in our town.”