Trump heats up protests against protective measures during the crisis
US President Trump wants to return the USA to normality and at the same time stirring up trouble with states. One governor says Trump’s “derailed” – endangering millions of people.
Washington (dpa) – US President Donald Trump has fueled protests against protective measures to contain the corona virus in several US states and has received some harsh criticism for this.
“I think some things are too harsh,” Trump said at a press conference at the White House on Friday evening with a view to Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia – democratically governed states that have taken tough measures in the corona crisis. Earlier, the Republican had posted on Twitter in capital letters “Free Michigan,” “Free Minnesota,” and “Free Virginia.
In recent days, dozens of people in several U.S. states have taken to the streets against the containment measures. Calls for similar actions were made on Saturday in Maryland and – despite cautious loosening – in Texas. One of the largest protests had taken place in Michigan on Wednesday. There, demonstrators, some heavily armed, had pulled up to the Capitol, waved Pro Trump flags from their cars and accused Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of “tyranny”. On Thursday a few dozen demonstrators gathered in Virginia, on Friday a similar picture emerged in Minnesota.
Trump explicitly defended the protesters on Friday. “These are people expressing opinions,” he said. “They seem like very reasonable people to me.” As early as Thursday, he said, “I think they listen to me. They seem to be protesters who like me.”
The Democratic governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, condemned the president’s “illegal and dangerous” statements. “He puts millions of people in danger of contracting Covid-19. His disturbing tirades and calls for people to “liberate” states could result in violence,” Inslee said in a statement Friday. “The president has derailed.”
Michigan’s Governor Whitmer expressed the hope that Trump’s comments would not spark even more protests. Anyone who has a platform should use it to tell people, “We’ll get through this,” Whitmer said. The economy will be revived as soon as it is safe, she said.
In the Corona crisis, unemployment in the US has risen dramatically: since mid-March, some 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits. Trump is coming under increasing pressure because of the upcoming presidential election in November. According to a survey by the Pew polling institute, 65 percent of Americans think Trump reacted too late to the corona threat. Sixty-six percent are concerned that the states could lift protective measures too early.
Trump wants to gradually bring the USA back to normality and gradually reopen the economy. On Thursday he had presented guidelines for this. Trump did not specify a timetable, and in the end the decision lies with the governors of the 50 states. The Republican exchanged blows with New York’s Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday. Trump tweeted during Cuomo’s daily press conference, saying he should “spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining. Cuomo replied with regard to Trump, “If he’s sitting at home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work.”
First states have already announced cautious relaxation of protective measures. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in Austin on Friday that currently closed stores could reopen from Friday next week if they delivered, shipped or made goods available for pickup. The reopening of state-administered parks will begin as early as Monday, Abbott said. Visitors would have to follow safety measures, however. Schools will remain closed this school year.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced on Friday that parks, hiking trails, golf courses, outdoor shooting ranges and shops selling fishing lures, among other things, could reopen if visitors followed protective measures. “It is important for us to stay active and enjoy nature while preventing the spread of Covid-19,” Walz said after a statement. In Vermont, dealers can reopen and construction work can resume under certain conditions.
The White House expects the coronavirus pandemic to result in 60,000 to 65,000 deaths in the United States – significantly less than feared in earlier predictions. Every death is one too many, Trump emphasized in the White House on Friday. However, the number of victims currently expected is below the predictions of at least 100,000 deaths recently presented by the White House. “I think that hopefully we will stay well below the 100,000,” the US president said.
In the United States, according to surveys by Johns Hopkins University, more than 37,000 people died as a result of coronavirus infection by Saturday morning (local time). More than 700 000 people tested positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus – more than in any other country in the world. According to a New York Times census, at least 7,000 people have died in nursing homes after infection with the virus – which is about a fifth of all deaths.