President Donald Trump announced federal guidelines for the phased reopening of the economy on a state-by-state basis Thursday as the country faces a coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic numbers that are drawing comparisons to the Great Depression.
The Trump administration’s target date is as early as May 1 for the phased reopenings to begin, according to Reuters. At the same time, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an extension of the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15 on Thursday and said he’s working on the policy in coordination with a group of other northeastern states.
Trump’s proposal is titled “Opening Up America Again.”
“We must have a working economy. And we want to get it back very, very quickly,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks at a press conference Thursday evening. “I believe it will boom.”
The U.S. has avoided “health care rationing” and “deadly shortfalls,” Trump said. It’s a claim made debatable by reports such as a Detroit News story last week on Sinai-Grace hospital in Detroit, where patients reportedly died in hallways and staff ran out of storage for bodies.
Globally, 2,134,465 cases are confirmed in the coronavirus pandemic and 142,148 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.
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Phased Approach Starts With Gradual Return To Work, Telework When Possible
ABC News reported that Trump has rolled out a plan with four phases to governors. In order to reach the first phase, states must reach a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses by the measure of several criteria within a two-week period, as well as have adequate hospital capacity and robust testing — both of which have been major pain points in the effort to beat back the pandemic in the U.S.
The “gating” criteria for a state to begin reopening must be met before every phase named by the White House Thursday, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“There are multiple checkpoints of safety there.”
The guidelines are not orders from the federal government, and states can move at their own speed, according to ABC News, which cited a person familiar with Trump’s video conference call with U.S. governors.
The guidelines include the following phases, the news outlet reported:
- In phase one of Trump’s guidelines, employers should telework when feasible, with a phased return to work, minimal non-essential travel and accommodation for the vulnerable, ABC News said. Social distancing would continue and vulnerable people would continue to shelter in place.
- In phase two, non-essential work travel could resume, and schools, gyms, churches and large venues could reopen with social distancing in place. Elective surgeries would resume, according to the ABC News report.
- In phase three, bars, gyms and large venues would reopen with relaxed social distancing and proper sanitation. Phase three would represent a return to “a new normal,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at Thursday’s press conference.
Public Health Experts Say Testing, Contract Tracing Must Be In Place
Thursday’s proposal calling for states to lead their own coronavirus policy represents a continued reversal by Trump from his comments earlier in the week, when he spoke of the federal government having absolute authority over states and their pandemic restrictions, a claim that was widely debunked.
“When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said Monday.
Public health experts such as Fauci have said that a true reopening of the economy cannot occur without COVID-19 testing and contract tracing capabilities that go far beyond what is now in place in the U.S.
The Trump administration’s guidelines are calling for reopening “one careful step at a time,” the president said Thursday.
Some states “will be able to open sooner than others,” he said.
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