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President Donald Trump to take public’s pandemic queries in ‘virtual’ town hall Sunday evening

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from a trip to Camp David, Md. (Patrick Semansky / AP)
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from a trip to Camp David, Md. (Patrick Semansky / AP)
By Darlene Superville Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Anxious for an economic recovery, President Donald Trump prepared to field Americans’ questions about decisions by some states to allow nonessential businesses to reopen while other states are on virtual lockdown due to the coronavirus.

After more than a month of being cooped up at the White House, Trump was returning from a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland and planned to participate in a “virtual” town hall, hosted Sunday night by Fox News Channel, from inside the Lincoln Memorial.

“Hopefully our Country will soon mend,” Trump tweeted. Federal guidelines that encouraged people to stay at home and practice social distancing expired late last week.

Debate continued over moves by governors to start reopening state economies that tanked after shopping malls, salons and other nonessential businesses were ordered closed in attempt to slow a virus that has killed more than 66,000 Americans, according to a tally of reported deaths by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. economy has suffered, shrinking at a 4.8% annual rate from January through March, the government estimated last week. It was the sharpest quarterly drop since the 2008 financial crisis.

Roughly 30.3 million people have filed for unemployment aid in the six weeks since the outbreak forced employers to shut down and slash their workforces. It was the worst string of layoffs on record.

Trump has made it clear that he wants the country reopened.

“I like the states opening. They will be opening,” the president said Friday as he left the White House for Camp David. “They’re going to open safely and quickly, I hope, because we have to get our country back.”

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, on Sunday predicted a “spectacular 2021” – with “the right set of policies” – on top of a rebound from July through December of this year. He said on CNN’s “State of the Union“ that the administration would “pause” to review the effectiveness of trillions in economic relief spending before making any decision on whether additional aid is needed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that state and local governments are seeking up to $1 trillion for coronavirus costs,

The Senate planned to reopen Monday, despite the Washington area’s continued status as a virus hot spot and with the region still under stay-at-home orders. The House remains shuttered. The pandemic is forcing big changes at the tradition-bound Supreme Court: The justices will hear arguments, beginning Monday, by telephone for the first time since Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention in 1876.

Congressional Republicans are resisting calls by Democrats for emergency spending for states and local governments whose revenue streams all but dried up in recent weeks. The GOP is counting on the country’s reopening and an the rebound promised by Trump as their best hope to forestall another big round of virus aid.

Fox News Channel said viewers were asked to submit questions about reopening the country to the network’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for a chance to appear on the national broadcast.

Trump participated in a similar event sponsored by Fox News on March 5 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Kayleigh McEnancy, the new White House press secretary, closed her first formal briefing on Friday by promising the town hall will be “ can’t-miss television.”

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