Donald Trump was pushing to end social distancing by Easter as recently as last week.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson defended Donald Trump's slow response to the coronavirus crisis on Thursday, claiming that it was actually Trump's critics that downplayed the pandemic.
In a Fox News interview, Carson told host Sean Hannity that Trump was not getting enough credit "for being incredibly courageous in imposing the travel ban so early on," referencing a Jan. 31 order that temporarily restricted entry for some foreign nationals who had traveled in China recently.
"Now you have people saying, oh you're too late. The same people who were telling people to go out and have fun and to mix," Carson complained.
When host Sean Hannity suggested the same critics had been the ones impeaching Trump, Carson answered, "Yeah," before urging Americans to maintain social distancing and wash their hands and clothes.
But it was Trump who spent weeks telling Americans that there was no reason to worry as the coronavirus was totally under control.
"The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA," Trump claimed in a Feb. 24 tweet.
Two days later, he bragged that the number of cases was just "15 people" and "within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero." "Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low," he said.
As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 213,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States and 4,513 deaths.
It was not until March 14 that Trump finally embraced "social distancing" — in a two-word tweet. But a day later, he was still claiming the pandemic was "something that we have tremendous control over."
Last week, Trump said he hoped to see America's churches "packed" for Easter, on April 12, defying public health experts. He tweeted that only the media wanted him to "keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success."
On Monday, he backed down, acknowledging that social distancing would have to continue at least until May.
Democrats have pushed for stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19 — sometimes over objections from Republican lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Republicans lawmakers have taken a different tack.
Asked early last month about what precautions he was taking, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) answered none and offered to shake hands with reporters.
Rep. Don Young (R-AL) told seniors on March 13 that they should "go forth with everyday activities" despite the "blown out of proportion" "beer virus."
And Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted a photo of a bottle of Corona beer on March 14, writing, "Be smart; don't panic. We will get us through this."
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) urged on the same day that Americans should "go out to a local restaurant" or a "local pub." He later claimed he meant take-out or drive-thru, though few pubs have drive-thru windows. On Tuesday, he demanded that social distancing efforts end within two weeks to protect the economy.
On Jan. 22, Trump was asked about the first known coronavirus case in the United States. "It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine," he replied.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.