President Trump unveiled on Thursday new federal guidelines for reopening the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic in a three-phase process that puts the responsibility on governors to make the final decision.
The 18-page guidelines titled “Opening Up America Again” was distributed to governors during a conference call Thursday afternoon that provided them with a recommended phased list of criteria to lift social distancing restrictions
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told the 50 governors during the call, adding that the guidelines are recommendation. “We’ll be standing right alongside of you and we’re going to get our country open and get it working and our people want to get working.”
A copy of the guidelines was obtained in advance that lays out three “phases” aimed at guiding parts of the country to move incrementally toward loosening restrictions on businesses and individuals. Before entering the first phase, states will have to meet a certain set of “medical metrics” and will need to show a downward trend of the number of confirmed cases documented over a 14-day period as well as a “robust” system for testing health care workers before they can proceed to a phased opening.
Trump unveiled the guidelines publicly during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing shortly after his conference call with governors.
“We can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling ‘Opening Up America Again,” Trump said Thursday evening. “To preserve the health of our citizens we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy. Over the long haul, you can’t do one without the other. A prolonged lockdown combined with a forced economic depression would inflict an immense and wide ranging toll on public health.”
He stated that reopening wouldn’t happen “all at once, but one careful step at a time” with each state “tailor” the plan. “If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that.”
Phase 1 of the plan recommends return to work in phases, though telework is still encouraged to continue, “all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place,” minimize non-essential travel and encourages everyone to maintain various social distancing practices when in public. Large venues such as movie theaters, restaurants, sporting venues, places of worship, gyms would begin to operate under strict social-distancing guidelines in place. However, schools and bars will continue to remain close, as well as prohibiting visits to nursing homes and hospitals.
Once states show no “evidence of a rebound” in cases during the Phase 1 period, it can move forward to Phase 2 which further loosens the restrictions. It continues shelter in place, large venues operations under “moderate physical distancing protocols,” and prohibits visits to nursing homes and hospitals. Schools and daycare can start to reopen, and elective surgeries that are clinically appropriate can resume. Non-essential travel will also begin to resume and bars could open with some restrictions such as “diminished standing-room occupancy.”
For phase three, work sites resume normal staffing protocols without restrictions and visits to nursing homes and hospitals could resume. Bars can operate with an “increased standing room occupancy” and public interactions for vulnerable individuals will resume, but should continue practicing social distancing.
Trump said there are as many as 29 states that could soon begin the Phase 1 process and “will be able to open relatively soon,” but didn’t mention which specific state.
“Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own state,” Trump said. “Every state is very different. If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that and if they believe it is time to reopen, we will provide them the freedom and guidance to accomplish that task and very, very quickly.”
The guidelines represent the “consensus of the medical professionals” from the Coronavirus Task Force public-health advisers, Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci in coordination with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Chief Robert Redfield and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration However, they stressed that they may be a possible “setbacks” and the virus could make a comeback in some states before getting into a “pretty good shape.”
“There may be some setbacks. Let’s face it,” Dr. Fauci stated. The plan is a “natural evolution from what we have said before. By the time we get into the fall, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
The guidance doesn’t set a specific timeline.
“We did not put a timeline on any of the phases,” Dr. Birx said. “We want the governors, with the data that they have community by community, to be setting up those timelines.”
Earlier, Trump held a conference call with bipartisan congressional members who will serve in “Opening Up America Again Congressional Group” panel. The new new task force includes 32 congressional lawmakers and 65 senators from both sides of the aisle. All Republican senators are on the panel, expect for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and they discussed, according to the White House press release a “range of topics, namely the need for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, the international and domestic supply chains, ways to energize the economy, surprise medical billing, clarifying the difference between essential and non-essential workers, mental health, and relief for small businesses.”
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