AP Photo/Alex Brandon Dr. Deborah Birx
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

“We need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent,” Birx said Sunday.

At a Fox News town hall Sunday, President Trump reiterated his stance that the United States can resume normal operations and praised anti-lockdown protesters. His positions are almost diametrically opposed to his own appointed experts and half the nation’s governors, many of whom fear a rushed return to normalcy will endanger lives and livelihoods.

The president insisted that it’s possible to “satisfy both” anti-lockdown protesters and those opposed to reopening. “I really believe that you can go to parks, you can go to beaches . . . [if] you stay away a certain amount,” Trump said from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

He also offered support Friday for heavily armed protesters opposed to the lockdown measures that remain in place in Michigan, tweeting “these are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely!” Anti-lockdown protesters have demonstrated at state capitols across the country in recent weeks. 

Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, responded Sunday regarding her order to extend a stay-at-home measure until May 15. “Whether you agree with me or not, I’m working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan,” she said

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, had strong words on Sunday for the Michigan demonstrators who stormed the State Capitol openly displaying assault weapons and military-grade guns. While she supported their right to protest, she said they should not be gathering close to each other and forgoing face masks.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me, personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very — or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” she said in a broadcast interview. “So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.”

Birx also touched on the reopen issue, saying regardless of whether states open or remain closed, Americans need to follow safety guidelines set out by public health officials.

“We also made it very clear to the American people, this is what you need to continue to do to protect yourself. You need to continue to social distance. You need to continue to practice scrupulous handwashing,” Birx said

Hours after Birx’s comments, Trump reinforced his approval of the protesters with no mention of the consequences of gathering in public.

“All those people out there that are protesting, they’re—they’re right,” Trump said. “They want to go back to work. We want to go back to work quickly, but safely. And that’s what’s happening.”

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Trump’s comments come as the administration scaled up the estimate for the number of expected. His previous prediction of 65,000 has already been surpassed. While now the president says up to 100,000 may lose their lives, Birx puts the figure much higher, from 100,000 to 240,000.

“Our projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost, and that’s with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance,” she said.