Updated at 8:10 p.m. ET
President Trump on Wednesday said he disagreed with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to re-open a number of industries in his state, including hair salons and tattoo parlors, saying that he thought the move was premature in the face of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Trump broke with the Republican governor’s call to ease social distancing rules in the state beginning on Friday, despite Trump’s own insistence that some states could begin to relax mitigation measures before the beginning of May.
“I disagree with him on what he’s doing,” Trump said during the Wednesday coronavirus task force briefing. Trump said he had spoken with Kemp to express that he “disagreed strongly” with the governor’s decision to reopen the state “in violation of Phase One guidelines.”
Still, Trump has made his own push to re-open the national economy.
On Wednesday he signed a 60-day immigration ban, which he says is intended to ensure that U.S. jobs created after the country re-opens go first to American workers. Trump said that temporary workers will not be affected by the decree.
The executive order falls in line with Trump’s presidency-long campaign to sharply reduce the number of immigrants coming to the United States. Calls to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border became a rallying cry among his supporters, and Trump has previously used executive order to ban travel to the country from several Muslim-majority nations.
Trump has staked significant interest in blunting the economic toll of the virus, calling for some states to consider re-opening even before the federal guidelines on social distancing expire on May 1.
Already, two states led by Republican governors, Georgia and South Carolina, have taken steps to restart their state’ economies as early as this week. Neither state meets the White House criteria of a two-week decline in new COVID-19 cases recommended before businesses begin to reopen.
Health care experts warn of the likely devastating impact reopening the economy too soon could have on the country’s ability to contain the virus. More than 300,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 if the country rejects social distancing, according to documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.
A critical component to slowing the virus’ spread is widespread testing, which the United States still lacks. Trump has repeatedly put the burden of testing on governors, but state officials say that they lack the capacity to aggressively test for the disease.
Researchers are also trying to locate an effective treatment for COVID-19. The president has repeatedly, without evidence, touted the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a possible treatment for the disease.
NPR reported yesterday that experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommends against the combination as a treatment, citing insufficient evidence of its efficacy and an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
Richard Bright, a high-ranking federal doctor focused on vaccine development, on Wednesday said he was removed from his post for his insistence that the government focus on “safe and scientifically vetted solutions,” rather than “drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.”
When asked on Wednesday about Bright’s ouster, Trump said he had never heard of the doctor.
“Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t [removed from his post],” Trump said. “I don’t know who he is.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading expert on infectious disease and member of the coronavirus task force, said he was not worried about political influence silencing scientists.
Fauci said that Bright would now be working at the National Institutes of Health in the field of diagnostics.