US to allow federal social distancing guidelines to expire

United States President Donald Trump said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday, further distancing his administration from increasingly unpopular and contentious stay-at-home orders and economic lockdowns across the country.

To underscore his confidence that the country has turned the tide, Trump announced that he plans to resume out-of-state travel after spending more than a month mostly confined to the White House, starting with a trip next week to Arizona, a battleground state in the November election, and possibly Ohio, another key swing state.

He also said he hopes to begin holding the mass campaign rallies that have been a hallmark of both his earlier campaigns and his presidency.

The decision to let the federal guidelines expire leaves social distancing guidelines up to individual states, some of which have already started opening.

“They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it,” Trump said during a White House meeting with John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor of Louisiana, on Wednesday.

Trump and certain governors have been locked in disputes over the allocation of needed medical supplies, including tests and personal protective equipment, to help the fight against the coronavirus.

Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, head of the National Governor’s Association, has repeatedly called on the federal government to do more to aid states.

“The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan told reporters last week.

Return to campaigning

The White House has been trying to pivot to a new stage of the crisis, focused on efforts to reopen the nation’s economy state-by-state amid concerns that lifting restrictions too quickly and without sufficient testing and contact tracing will spur a resurgence.

The country has dramatically improved its testing after a slow and rocky start, but many health experts say the country still must do more – as many as five million tests a day – to safely reopen. Otherwise, they warn, coronavirus cases will skyrocket as Americans return to work.

States like Georgia, South Carolina and Alaska have allowed some businesses to reopen while maintaining social distancing. Most of the 50 states will reopen in some fashion within the next month.

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