President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, finally admitted Monday he was wrong about coronavirus being “contained” a month ago. But now he wants America to trust him on easing social distancing — for the good of the economy.
Kudlow was making the interview rounds apparently preparing the nation for Trump’s reported intention to lift social distancing restrictions in just days as the president desperately seeks a strategy that might boost the economy. Kudlow spoke as conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the opposite tack and for the first time enacted strict national “lockdown” requirements in a bid to stem the spread of the virus there.
Kudlow said on Feb. 25 that coronavirus in the U.S. was “contained pretty close to airtight.” Now, with at least 41,000 cases and more than 500 deaths from the virus, he told CNBC: “I’ve changed my view.”
He claimed that when he made the statement, it was “true, factually,” adding that “nobody could have predicted or expected” the surge in cases. (Check out the video above.) In fact, that same day, the director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases had already warned that the disease was reaching an even more dangerous level of community contagion.
Not cowed by pandemic statistics, Kudlow then pressed on CNBC for easing social distancing guidelines in a week. “At some point, you have to ask yourself whether the shutdown is doing more harm than good,” he said. Kudlow added that keeping “the economy going” now is the “important point.”
He also said earlier Monday on Fox News: “The president is right. The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re going to have to make some difficult tradeoffs.”
Health experts almost universally support social distancing as the best way currently to keep coronavirus cases down. Several states have enacted requirements that residents stay in their homes and travel only as necessary to grocery stores, pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Schools in a number of states have been closed with some governors indicating they won’t be open at least through the summer.
The only national guidelines expressed by Trump include avoiding groups of more than 10 people and staying out of some public places until March 30.
But on Sunday night, Trump, echoing remarks from a Fox News host, tweeted that “we cannot let the cure” — referring to social distancing — be “worse than the problem itself.”
He said at his White House press briefing Monday that America will “soon be open for business … it won’t be that long.”
Trump’s top health adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday on NBC that that “trajectory” of the outbreak in other areas shows cases will surge for “at least” several weeks.
Fauci added: “I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now, it’s going to be over. I don’t think there’s a chance of that. I think it’s going to be several weeks.”
Some top international health experts said restrictions should continue until there is a treatment or a vaccine, which could take as long as 18 months, or cases will keep surging.