(Updates with more details, background)
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump is privately expressing concern at the damage the coronavirus shutdown is doing to the U.S. economy and is debating whether it can be safely reopened, two sources familiar with the situation said on Monday.
In a tweet late on Sunday, Trump tweeted: "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself," adding that at the end of the 15-day shutdown period, "we will make a decision as to which way we want to go."
Trump issued guidelines a week ago he said aimed to slow the spread of the disease over 15 days, prompting much economic activity to stop. Trump, who had hoped to build his campaign of the Nov. 3 election on a booming U.S. economy, now is looking at the potential of millions of jobs lost.
His administration has been pushing for aggressive steps to stem the economic hit of the epidemic, after the president spent several weeks playing down the risks.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Sunday the lockdown affecting large segments of the American public was likely to last 10 to 12 weeks, or until early June.
One source said Trump began talking privately late last week about reopening the country after the 15-day shutdown because he is worried about the economic damage from shuttering the economy.
Trump believes "we are strong and need a strong economy as we deal with this crisis," the source said.
Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally and chairman of the American Conservative Union, backed Trump.
"I think it is soon becoming time to have old and/or sick people take every precaution and healthy people go back to work forever changed w(ith) new habits in a grimmer reality," Schlapp said in a tweet.
Former Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was frequently at odds with Trump, backed Trump. "I agree 100%, @realDonaldTrump," Corker tweeted.
Nearly one in three Americans was under orders on Sunday to stay home to slow the spread of the virus as Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest states to enact broad restrictions, along with the city of Philadelphia.
They joined New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, home to 101 million Americans combined.
Cases of the coronavirus in the United States have topped 32,000, with more than 415 dead, according to a Reuters tally. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T)
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller)
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