President Donald Trump released new guidelines on Thursday that states should emerge from a corona virus shutdown in a staggered three-tier approach to revitalize the U.S. economy, even if the country continues to fight the pandemic.
The recommendations urge states to show a “downward trend” in Covid-19 cases or positive tests for the disease over a 14-day period before proceeding with the plan, thereby reducing the restrictions on companies that have been closed Curb the spread of the virus, be gradually relaxed.
“We don’t open all at once, but step by step,” Trump told White House reporters. The president had said earlier this month that he wanted to reopen the economy with a “big bang”.
The plan includes a number of recommendations for governors, not orders. In that sense, it’s a Trump setback that Monday insisted that it had full authority to tell states to reopen or remain closed. The responsibility for such decisions lies with the state authorities and not with the federal authorities.
With the governors’ responsibility, the Trump plan also provides political coverage if things don’t go well. The president, a Republican who will stand for re-election in November, has been criticized for downplaying the severity of the virus in the first few weeks of the outbreak.
In the first phase of the reopening, the guidelines state that groups of more than 10 people should be avoided if suitable distance measures are not practical. Non-essential trips should be minimized, telework promoted and public areas in offices closed.
Schools remain closed in phase 1, but large venues such as cinemas, restaurants, sports stadiums and places of worship can be opened with “strict protocols for physical distancing”.
Hospitals that have been hit hard by the health crisis can resume outpatient elective surgery, and gyms can be reopened with new protocols. Bars should remain closed, it said.
In the second phase, which applies to states and regions where there are “no signs of recovery”, the guidelines recommend avoiding groups of more than 50 people if social distancing is not practical. Travel that is not absolutely necessary can be resumed, while schools and youth camps can come together again and bars with “reduced standing space” can be reopened. Hospitals can also resume inpatient surgery. Such procedures are critical to hospital incomes.
Phase three involves full occupancy, but Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which has played a leading role in policy development, said that a “new normal” would persist: a need for higher hygiene standards and more space between people to prevent asymptomatic spread of the virus.
White House officials specifically emphasized the support of Birx, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, and Robert Redfield, director of the disease control and prevention centers, for the plan. Trump repeatedly thanked them from the White House podium.
Trump has tried to get the US economy back on track after the corona virus shutdown left millions of Americans unemployed. More than 20 million people have applied for unemployment in the United States in the past month, and over 90% of the country has been ordered at home.