President Donald Trump on Thursday applauded a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision revoking an order for coronavirus locking, as hundreds gathered at the state house in neighboring Michigan to protest the democratic governor’s restrictions there.
The early-morning tweet by Republican Trump sparked a partisan nationwide debate about how quickly states closed in March would reopen to fight a pandemic that, according to a Reuters note, has more than 1.4 million Americans infected and killed nearly 85,000.
After pushing his reelection hopes on November 3 for a strong economy, Trump wants states to reopen despite warnings from health experts, including some from his White House task force, that lifting lockdowns prematurely could cause more virus outbreaks.
On Thursday, he took his battle cry to Pennsylvania, where he took a tour of a medical equipment distributor. It was his second major trip outside the White House since March, both to battlefield states that are considered key to winning in 2020.
“They should start thinking about opening it up,” Trump told reporters when he left Washington, referring to Pennsylvania’s political leadership.
Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, accused Trump of making the trip to divide Americans, “casting Democrats as doomers to keep America on the ground and Republicans as freedom fighters trying to free the economy.”
In Wisconsin, residents flocked to bars on Wednesday evening after the court sided with republican lawmakers who argued that the state’s highest public health officer exceeded her authority by imposing restrictions on businesses and everyday life.
“The democratic governor was forced by the courts to leave the state open,” Trump tweeted, referring to Governor Tony Evers. “People want to continue with their lives. It’s crowded here! ‘
Coming back to the court ruling, Evers urged residents to stay at home, practice social distance, and limit travel.
“People, deadly viruses don’t go away on their own and they don’t go away because the Supreme Court says so,” he said in a radio speech.
Hundreds of people gathered on Thursday in Michigan’s capital, Lansing, to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s recent decision to extend her home warrant to at least May 28. Some carried signs in support of Trump.
Whitmer also gave the go-ahead to restart production in her state starting this week, allowing U.S. automakers to schedule re-openings across the country on Monday as so many parts suppliers are located in and around Detroit.
Witnesses said Thursday’s protest was peaceful, although it had a handful of weapons, which is permitted under state law. The police quickly made a scuffle. On April 30, hundreds of protesters, some armed, entered the Capitol and demanded to enter the floor of the house.
Data from the U.S. government released on Thursday showed that the state’s initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 2,981 million for the week ending May 9. This increased the number of people who made a claim since mid-March to 36.5 million, more than one in five employees.
Nearly all 50 U.S. states have started allowing some businesses to reopen and residents to move more freely, although only 14 states have complied with the White House guidelines for when and how to do it, according to an analysis of Reuters.
Nationally, new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have fallen by 11% in the past week, an analysis by Reuters found. The overall decline was largely due to 33% drops each in New York and New Jersey – the epicenter of the outbreak – over the past week.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that five state regions would take the first steps to reopen some businesses on Friday, while a stay-at-home in New York City and other regions remained. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the beaches would open for the weekend of May 23-25 on Memorial Day.
Despite the Wisconsin court ruling, Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, Mayor Tom Barrett, said his home warrant would remain intact. That meant that bars and restaurants like Lakefront Brewery, with about 170 full-time and part-time employees, will remain closed for the time being.
Lakefront president Russ Klisch said he wasn’t ready to open his doors to customers anyway as he was still waiting for plexiglass orders to be placed between the tables and at the bar and had to train staff to help himself and protect customers.
“We’ll have to learn to deal with it somehow,” Klisch told Reuters in a telephone interview. “But we’ll have to handle it safely.”