US President Donald Trump gave governors a road map on Thursday for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.
“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said during his daily press briefing. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.”
He added, “This is a gradual process.”
The new guidelines are aimed at clearing the way for an easing of restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit locations.
Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools, with each phase lasting at least 14 days, meant to ensure that the virus outbreak does not accelerate again.
The recommendations 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.
“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump said during the White House briefing.
At the earliest, the guidelines suggest that some parts of the country could see a resumption in normal commerce and social gatherings after a month of evaluating whether the easing of restrictions leads to a resurgence in virus cases. In other parts of the country, or if virus cases resume an uptick, it could be substantially longer.
Trump briefed the country’s governors on the plan on Thursday afternoon, saying they were going to be responsible for deciding when it is safe to lift restrictions in their states. That was different from the tone he set earlier this week, when he said he had “total” authority on when and how the country reopened.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors, according to an audio recording obtained by The Associated Press news agency. “We’re going to be standing alongside of you.”
New task force
Meanwhile, under the federal guidelines, those most susceptible to the respiratory disease would be advised to remain sheltered in place until their area enters the final phase – and even then, they are advised to take precautions to avoid close contact with other people.
The federal guidelines come after seven governors in the Midwest announced on Thursday that they would coordinate on reopening the economy, after similar pacts were announced earlier this week in the west and northeast.