Trump worries US will see 'suicides by the thousands' if coronavirus devastates economy

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In a Fox News virtual town hall Tuesday, President Trump expressed concern that the U.S. could see an uptick in suicides should the coordinated economic slowdown aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus continue, citing Americans' desire to get back to work.

These comments continue a recent pattern of Trump itching to get the U.S. economy back on track following a stock market crash that erased about one-third of the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in just a matter of weeks.

"You're going to lose a number of people to the flu, but you're going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression," Trump said Tuesday. "You're gonna lose people. You're gonna have suicides by the thousands."

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Trump continued: "You're gonna have all sorts of things happen. You're gonna have instability. You can't just come in and say let's close up the United States of America, the biggest most successful country in the world by far."

This reflected a comment from Trump Monday night signaling he was hopeful the United States could get back to business as usual sooner rather than later.

"We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem," he said at a White House briefing. He repeated the line in his Tuesday town hall.

But many models have shown that the coronavirus pandemic could last months in the United States, and Trump himself previously predicted that the coronavirus threat would last until July or August. Tuesday he said he hoped the U.S. could largely get back to normal by Easter Sunday.

Later in his town hall, Trump addressed concerns that rushing back to normalcy might worsen the coronavirus crisis.

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"We can do much of what we're doing and we can do it from a work environment instead of an environment where everybody's locked up and everybody is saying, 'Oh, the business is gone, the business is gone,' and everybody's suffering depression," Trump said, referencing social distancing guidelines.

"And that causes death and that causes a lot of problems. These are people, they want to save their business they don't want to be locked up in some room or some apartment or house and in the meantime, their restaurant's closed, their business is closed... I believe very strongly you're going to lose far more people by going that way than you are if we kept this thing going."

Trump and the White House have encouraged Americans to engage in "social distancing" and to stay at home to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. Its "15 days to slow the spread" campaign will end next week unless Trump decides to extend it.

Editor's note: This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Fox News' Adam Shaw contributed to this report.