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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Health officials have been stressing that social distancing needs to continue in the United States for as long as it is necessary. But President Donald Trump, CNN is reporting, is hoping to reopen the U.S. economy as soon as early May and to do so with a "big bang" — even though it remains to be seen what the coronavirus pandemic will be doing at that point.

CNN's Mark Liptak reports, "Officials said the options being discussed on reopening the country vary widely in scope, from recommendations on benchmarks for when individual states can begin easing restrictions to a nationwide 'big bang' that Trump previewed Tuesday evening on Fox News. Still, some officials have even begun mulling the type of event Trump may want to mark the day when nationwide restrictions are lifted after he suggested a 'big celebration' when the crisis is over."

Health officials, however, have been warning that if social distancing measures are eased prematurely, it could make the death toll from coronavirus even higher than it has to be — which would be terrible for the economy. And proponents of aggressive social distancing have pointed out that while keeping millions of brick-and-mortar businesses shut down throughout this month is tough on the economy, insufficient social distancing could hurt the economy and the health of the country even more.

Most Americans are worried about the possibility of social distancing measures being eased too soon, according to CNN. A newly released CNN poll found that 60 percent of Americans would feel uncomfortable returning to their usual routines if social distancing guidelines were lifted after April 30. In other words, many Americans might opt to practice social distancing on their own regardless of what guidelines Trump has in May.

It isn't hard to understand why many Americans, as CNN's poll indicates, might choose social distancing on their own even if Trump isn't asking for it: according to researchers for John Hopkins University in Baltimore, at least 13,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S. so far (Hopkins reported more than 85,000 coronavirus-related deaths worldwide). And Hopkins' numbers, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, are likely to increase substantially in the weeks ahead.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.