None of the analyses that have been publicly discussed modeling the spread of the coronavirus in the United States suggest that there will be a resolution of the pandemic anywhere close to Easter. Dr. Fauci himself has said it was possible that the country would see a peak in the number of cases around May 1.
But Mr. Trump said he expected that people could return to work and still practice social distancing, which requires maintaining a distance from others of about six feet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We can socially distance ourselves and go to work, and you’ll have to work a little bit harder,” the president said. “You can clean your hands five times more than you used to. You don’t have to shake hands anymore with people.”
But if people are told they can head back to work, commuting by bus or subway while thousands of new infections are confirmed each day, “the virus will surge, many will fall ill and there will be more deaths,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa, was even more pessimistic. “Nobody voted in Donald Trump thinking he would become a ‘one-man death panel’ empowered to dispense with American lives like cannon fodder,” he said. “It would be political suicide for him and murder for many others.”
For now, however, Mr. Trump and his aides do not feel deterred by how his opposition to measures overwhelmingly recommended by health professionals is playing politically. A Gallup poll released on Tuesday showed that 60 percent of Americans held general positive views of his handling of the coronavirus crisis. And his overall approval rating was 49 percent, a high for his presidency.
As a practical matter, however, Mr. Trump cannot reopen the country. He can issue guidelines, as he did last week, when he announced a 15-day plan that included closing schools and telling people to avoid groups of more than 10 as well as bars, restaurants, food courts and discretionary travel. But the decision of whether or not to return to business as usual is up to the states, and Democratic and Republican governors of some of the biggest states in the country have said they were, in fact, shutting down for the foreseeable future, while others, like Texas, have imposed no restrictions.