“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told the governors, according to an audio recording obtained by The Associated Press. “We’re going to be standing alongside of you.”
The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak.
Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools – each phase lasting at least 14 days – to ensure that infections don’t accelerate again.
In phase one, for instance, the plan recommends strict social distancing for all people in public. Gatherings larger than 10 people are to be avoided and nonessential travel is discouraged.
Take a look at the Trump administration’s plan below, or click here to see the document.
In phase two, people are encouraged to maximize social distancing where possible and limit gatherings to no more than 50 people unless precautionary measures are taken. Travel could resume.
Phase three envisions a return to normalcy for most Americans, with a focus on identification and isolation of any new infections.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the guidelines before their public release.
Governors of both parties made clear they will move at their own pace.
Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, said the guidelines “seem to make sense.”
“We’re days, maybe weeks away from the starting line and then you have to have 14 days of declining cases, of declining symptoms and hospital capacity that exists in case you have a rebound,” he said.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Trump ally, cautiously floated the idea of reopening parts of the state, but said testing capacity and contact tracing would need to be considerably ramped up before restrictions could be safely lifted.
“All would be forgotten very quickly if we moved into a stage quicker than we should, and then we got into a situation where we had people dying like flies,” Justice told reporters.
At earliest, the guidelines suggest, some parts of the country could see a resumption in normal commerce and social gatherings after a month of evaluating whether easing up on restrictions has led to a resurgence in virus cases. In other parts of the country, or if virus cases pick up, it could be substantially longer.
Trump briefed the nation’s governors on the plan Thursday afternoon, saying they were going to be responsible for deciding when it is safe to lift restrictions in their states. It came days after the president drew swift pushback for claiming he had the absolute authority to determine how and when states reopen.
“We have a very large number of states that want to get going and they’re in very good shape,” Trump said. “That’s good with us, frankly.”
The guidelines also include general recommendations to businesses as they plan for potential reopenings, suggesting temperature-taking, rapid COVID-19 testing and widespread increased disinfection efforts in workplaces.
Those most susceptible to the respiratory disease are advised to remain sheltered in place until their area enters the final phase – and even then are encouraged to take precautions to avoid close contact with other people.
Governors, for their part, have been moving ahead with their own plans for how to safely revive normal activity. Seven Midwestern governors announced Thursday they will coordinate on reopening their economies. Similar pacts were announced earlier in the week in the West and Northeast.
Two in three Americans expressed concerns that restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus would be eased too quickly, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.
Trump held conference calls earlier Thursday with lawmakers he named to a new congressional advisory task force on reviving the economy. The economic costs were clear in new federal data showing that at least 22 million Americans have been thrown out of work in the last month. But the legislators repeatedly urged the president not to sacrifice public health by moving too quickly.
“My highest priority on this task force will be to ensure the federal government’s efforts to reopen our economy are bipartisan, data-driven, and based on the expertise of public health professionals,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.
The federal government envisions a gradual recovery from the virus, in which disruptive mitigation measures may be needed in some places at least until a vaccine is available – a milestone unlikely to be reached until sometime next year.
“It’s not going to immediately be a situation where we have stadiums full of people,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday. “We’re Americans. We will adapt,” he added.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to Trump, said the lack of widespread testing was an impediment to lifting the social distancing guidelines. “We are struggling with testing at a large scale,” he told ABC’s “The View.” “You really can’t go back to work until we have more tests.”
But some of Trump’s conservative allies, like economist Stephen Moore, have encouraged him to act swiftly, warning of “a mini Great Depression if we keep the economy shut down.”
“That is a catastrophic outcome for our country. Period,” Moore said he advised the president. “We can’t have 30 million people in this country unemployed or you’re going to have social chaos.”
A big testing ground for Trump’s road map could be Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has stuck close to federal guidance throughout the crisis, will lay out his reopening plan Friday. Abbott has said the process will be gradual, but he is facing pressure from conservative lawmakers to get Texas back to work.
A look at the guidelines:
– BEFORE PHASE ONE: What states or regions must do before proceeding to a phased opening of their economies:
Among the boxes that must be checked are a downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period and a robust testing program in place for at-risk health care workers. Other criteria include a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period and hospitals having enough protective gear for their workers and enough beds, ventilators and other needed supplies to treat all patients.
– PHASE ONE:
The guidance affects certain employers differently. For example, schools and organized youth activities that are currently closed, such as daycare, should remain closed. The guidance also says that bars should remain closed. However, larger venues such as movie theaters, churches, ballparks and arenas can operate but under strict distancing protocols.
Also under phase one, vulnerable individuals such as elderly people and those with underlying health conditions should continue to shelter in place. Individuals who do go out should avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people in places that don’t provide appropriate physical distancing. Trade shows and receptions are cited as examples.
The guidelines also recommend minimizing nonessential travel during phase one.
– PHASE TWO:
The guidelines say nonessential travel can resume, however all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place. When people go out in public, they should avoid social settings with more than 50 people when appropriate physical distancing is not practical.
Employers in phase two are asked to continue to encourage telework when possible and to close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate or they should enforce “moderate social distancing protocols.”
Schools and daycare can reopen. Bars may open but should leave less room for people to stand around when possible.
– PHASE THREE:
In this phase, vulnerable individuals can resume going out in public but should practice physical distancing. Visits to senior care centers and hospitals can also resume, though those who interact with residents and patients must remain diligent about following good hygiene practices, namely washing their hands frequently. Meanwhile, low-risk populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments. Employers can resume unrestricted staffing of worksites.
There is no set timeline for moving through each of the three phases.
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