President Donald Trump has defended tweets in which he appeared to endorse protests against stringent lockdown measures in several US states.
At his Friday briefing, he said some measures imposed by Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia had been “too tough”.
Earlier, he wrote in a series of tweets: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA”, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and then “LIBERATE VIRGINIA”.
The curbs, which include stay-at-home orders, are needed to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But protesters say they are hurting citizens by limiting movement unreasonably and stifling economic activity.
The three states the Republican president referred to in Friday’s tweets are all led Democratic governors. Mr Trump may be seeking to encourage his political base to protest against Democrats, the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher says.
Demonstrations calling on authorities to end the shutdown have occurred in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and Kentucky.
But Mr Trump did not mention Ohio and Utah which both have Republican governors.
His comments came shortly after the US saw its highest daily death toll from coronavirus, recording 4,591 deaths in 24 hours on Thursday.
That spike could be because Johns Hopkins University, which records the data, began to include deaths with a Covid-19 probable cause.
The US has the highest number of cases and deaths worldwide, with nearly 700,000 confirmed infections and more than 36,000 death
More demonstrations against the lockdown measures are planned, including in Wisconsin, Oregon, Maryland, Idaho and Texas.
The protests have varied in size, ranging from a few dozen people in Virginia to thousands in Michigan.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz responded to the president’s tweets, saying he called the White House to ask “what they think we could have done differently” but did not hear back.
“The president unveiled a three step plan that mirrors exactly what we’re trying to do,” Mr Walz told reporters.
What does federal guidance say?
The president’s apparent support for the protests comes a day after his administration unveiled new guidance for re-opening state economies.
That guidance recommends three phases of slowly re-opening businesses and social life, with each phase lasting a minimum of 14 days.
It includes some recommendations across all three phases including good personal hygiene and employers developing policies to ensure social distancing, testing and contact tracing.
Dr Anthony Fauci, from the White House coronavirus taskforce, cautioned that even as restrictions were eased “it’s not game over”.
He warns that the virus may rebound, and there could be setbacks along the way.