Coronavirus government response updates: Trump sends mixed messages on reopening risks as more states look to lift restrictions

By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Even after pushing for the country to reopen “very soon” and predicting large gatherings will return by July 4, President Donald Trump says he “strongly disagrees” with the Republican governor of Georgia’s decision to open businesses like nail salons Friday, raising questions around what the president is expecting from governors weighing difficult decisions on lifting restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” he said at Wednesday’s White House briefing, before stopping short of intervening, adding, “But he has to do what he thinks is right.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, whom the president has highly criticized for restrictions she’s imposed, told CNN Thursday morning she’s reconsidering her state’s stay-at-home order and expects to announce adjustments in the coming days, after facing protests Trump appeared to encourage.

Task force members also delivered mixed messages on the seasonal return of COVID-19 at Wednesday’s briefing.

The president called up Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield to back up Trump’s claim he was “totally misquoted” in a Washington Post article saying it’s possible the “assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult” if it coincides with flu season.

But after Redfield ultimately confirmed the quote as accurate Trump then downplayed the danger of the virus returning this fall, including during the November presidential election.

“Now, if we have little pockets, a little pocket here, then we’re going to have it put out. It goes out, and it’s going to be put out fast,” Trump said. “But it’s all possible — it’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all… We may not even have corona coming back.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, contradicted Trump, saying he was “convinced” that a fall return is inevitable, but he and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, both agreed that the impact would likely be less because the country would be better prepared.

Meanwhile, House lawmakers return to Capitol Hill Thursday amid the highly contagious pandemic to vote on the Senate-passed $484 billion interim relief package that replenishes a small business loan program and also boosts funding to hospitals and testing.

White House coronavirus task force briefing is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

Trump’s reopening push comes as 4.4 million more people file for unemployment, jobless claims worse than in Great Recession

A record-shattering 26 million people have filed for unemployment in the last month, wiping out a decade of employment gains and jobless claims reaching a number worse than the Great Recession, the key reason driving President Trump’s “Opening Up America Again” plan.

Last week alone, 4.4 million people filed for unemployment insurance, according to a Department of Labor report released Thursday morning.

The unprecedented influx in jobless claims has created a number of issues for those in dire need of benefits as businesses across the country are forced to close their doors and Americans report ongoing struggles in the unemployment application process.

Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was at a historic low of 3.6%.

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