CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite President Donald Trump saying he wants to have the country back open and “raring to go by Easter,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday it wouldn’t be prudent to pull back on current efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus anytime soon, and she said the city and state clearly can’t depend on the federal government to help.
“They are not the cavalry,” Lightfoot said in a conference call on Tuesday.
Earlier, during a Fox News town hall, the president expressed impatience with the ongoing business closings, economic slowdown, and stock market plunges that are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said.
Trump has said the U.S. was not built to be shut down, and needs to return to normal soon. On Tuesday, he said the White House will reevaluate the president’s 15-day guidelines for social distancing and business closures at the end of that 15 days, which would be early next week.
“I would love to have it open by Easter. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
“Now people are going to have to practice all the social distancing … but we have to get our country back to work. Our country wants to be back at work,” he added.
However, health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction, staying home from work and isolating themselves, the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths.
Trump’s Easter target was not immediately embraced by Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for Trump’s task force, who indicated any move would have to be guided by data still being collected. She suggested that public health professionals could recommend a general easing, while pushing for local restrictions to remain in the hardest-hit areas.
Trump acknowledged that some want the guidance to continue, but claimed without providing evidence that it would lead to “deaths” from suicides and depression.
Lightfoot said, despite the president having access to a worldwide network of top health experts, he has not been a reliable leader on the coronavirus pandemic. The mayor said Trump repeatedly says things that are “unreliable and scary” and “reckless.”
“People have to come in behind him and clean up his mess,” she said.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city’s COVID-19 cases are still on an upward trajectory, and she expects that to continue for “some time.”
Lightfoot has said the city currently has sufficient hospital beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and that she doubts the federal government has sufficient stockpile to significantly help out local governments anyway, so she won’t be relying on the Trump administration to help the city with its response to the pandemic.
“It’s clear to me the federal government is not going to help us. They are not the cavalry,” she said.
Meantime, the city is finalizing a deal with the current owners of the shuttered MetroSouth Medical Center building in Blue Island to provide 200 rooms that could be used for acute care of patients who test positive for the coronavirus, and ease the burden on existing hospitals.
Lightfoot also has expressed concerns about Cook County Chief Criminal Court Judge Leroy Martin’s decision to have judges hold expedited bail review hearings this week for thousands of Cook County Jail inmates, to help reduce the jail population and slow the spread of COVID-19 behind bars.
While the mayor said no one should remain incarcerated if they are not a flight risk, or a danger to the community, or if they simply lack the cash to post bail, she’s worried that some inmates who would be released would be at risk of homelessness, and she wants to make sure they don’t end up in hospital emergency rooms.
The letter and several suburban mayors have penned a letter urging to have inmates screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before they are granted early release, and be given information on how to protect themselves against the virus.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)