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President Trump on Tuesday defended protesters who have turned up at state capitols and outside governors' mansions to demand the reopening of businesses to jumpstart a fractured economy crippled by business closures and massive layoffs.
"They want to get back to work," Trump told reporters during his daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. "They have to take care of their families. They don't want to do this."
Protests have cropped up in several states in recent weeks with participants demanding an end to state lockdown orders that are forcing many to stay indoors, and the immediate reopening of businesses to aid those out of work.
Health officials have cautioned about rolling back such measures and social distancing guidelines over fears it could lead to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Some states -- Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina -- have already committed to allowing certain businesses to resume operations. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will allow certain establishments -- including hair and nail salons where social distancing is all but impossible -- to open Friday. Restaurants in the state can resume dine-in services beginning Monday.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order Monday to allow some businesses to immediately reopen.
"It will have to be on a community-by-community opening," said Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, in response to how can businesses open safely. "If there's a way people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don't know how but people are very creative."
Trump warned that many Americans are desperate to get back to work as the pandemic continues to hamper economic growth that translates into job losses.
Around 22 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks, according to the federal government.
"People... they need money. They need help," Trump said. "And we can't break our country over this.
"The governors, I want them to do it. If we see they are doing something we don't like, we'll stop it very quickly," he added. "Some of the governors frankly, they're in a position where they can do it sooner or they can do it a little bit later."
Trump gave protesters in three states a boost over the weekend when he fired off several tweets endorsing their cause.
“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” he said in tweets.