Image: Screenshots, May 11, 2020. Source: Twitter @realDonaldTrump.
By Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump accused Democrats on Monday of moving to reopen U.S. states from coronavirus lockdown measures too slowly for political advantage, without providing evidence to support his claim.
The Republican president, who is running for re-election in November, is working to reopen the crippled economy quickly against recommendations from health experts to move more cautiously to avoid a resurgence of the virus that has so far killed more than 80,000 people in the United States.
Trump has encouraged states to ease restrictions designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. On Monday, he targeted the election battleground state of Pennsylvania, which has a Democratic governor, Tom Wolf.
“The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails. The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes. They would wait until November 3rd if it were up to them. Don’t play politics. Be safe, move quickly!” Trump said in a Twitter post.
Some of the states hardest-hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 1.3 million nationwide are led by Democratic governors, including New York and Michigan – both important prizes in the Nov. 3 election between Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Trump has encouraged reopenings with tweets calling on people to “liberate” their states, providing fuel to protests across the country including large gatherings in the Michigan capital of Lansing.
The politicization of the health crisis is playing out at local levels as well, as Democrats and Republicans clash over reopening plans.
In Pennsylvania, some counties over the weekend asked Wolf to move their regions into the group he has targeted for earlier reopenings, according to media reports.
Officials in Lancaster County sent Wolf a letter on Saturday notifying him that they intend to move forward with reopening on May 15, ahead of his schedule for the area.
“Lancaster County has demonstrated time and time again that our leaders are able to find local solutions to local problems through collaboration. This approach is far different than that of the Governor,” state Senator Ryan P. Aument, a Republican, said in a Twitter post on Monday.
Trump’s overall popularity has been mostly flat throughout the pandemic, with the number of adults who approve of him wavering between 40% and 45% from March to May, according to Reuters/Ipsos national opinion polls.
Despite mounting economic damage that saw 20.5 million Americans lose jobs in April, most Americans have consistently said in polls they want to maintain social distancing to protect themselves from the virus.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Grant McCool.