Trump conceded that final decisions on how and when to reopen parts of the economy would rest with individual governors, a reversal of his previous position, which he held “absolutely the authority” to reopen the economy. But it still plans to provide guidelines and benchmarks to help states alleviate social distancing in the coming days.
“The plans to reopen the country are about to be finalized and we will be sharing the details and the new guidelines soon with everyone,” Trump said on Tuesday.
An official said new directions could arrive this week, and others familiar with the plans said new guidelines on social isolation would come as soon as possible. The new recommendations would mimic the social distancing guidelines announced by the president in March and extended in early April: while not mandatory, they carry the weight of the federal government and the presidency.
The current federal guidelines on social distancing are not expected to be renewed when they expire on April 30. Officials said the White House would work closely with states to ensure that reopening efforts are carried out safely and only when local epidemics are deemed contained.
The new guidelines could also include a variety of options on how to reopen workplaces, including stepping up monitoring and recommending temperature controls; increase the availability of tests, including antibody tests when they become available; new guidelines on how to best distance yourself socially in the workplace, on public transportation and in public spaces such as restaurants; and increased availability of masks or other face covers.
The new guidelines are still being consolidated. But another idea discussed is to recommend to people who have recovered from a coronavirus or who test positive during the antibody test – which means they had a coronavirus and they probably have some immunity – to return to work with masks.
Authorities also discussed recommendations for schools, daycare centers and summer camps, recognizing that returning to work can be difficult for parents if their children also have nowhere to go.
The task force members who developed the new guidelines are expected to streamline their efforts in the coming days before presenting the final options to Trump.
Sources inside the White House and others familiar with the discussions say there is now a belief that it will be nearly impossible to keep Trump away from the May 1 date for the reopening of the economy, although the president has conceded that different regions of the country move at different rates.
While a senior administration official insisted that May 1 was still a fluid date, sources familiar with the matter said on phone calls to allies that the president had seemed “amplified”, focusing almost nothing, but when and how much the country should reopen its economy.
Because of the president’s focus on the laser on May 1, people around him are helping to identify ways to make the announcement he wants but to do it responsibly, according to a source familiar with the thought and conversations of the president.
States do their own thing
Even with new federal directives, the patchwork of different state situations will make any return to normal nationwide unlikely, despite Trump’s persistent insistence on May 1 as the reopening date.
Some states have already extended their own social distancing guidelines after May 1, and California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has already announced a six-point reopening framework that includes expanding tests to identify and isolate the infected, maintaining vigilance to protect the elderly. and people at high risk, and be able to cope with future outbreaks in hospitals.
Although Trump has said each state will submit its own reopening plan, the new guidelines should not be state-specific, officials said. Instead, the current thinking is to issue new, relaxed federal directives and tell heads of state if their state is ready to adopt them, they should.
Trump said on Tuesday that he would not apply pressure to states on the reopening and was considering a gradual reopening based on geography.
“We think some of the governors will be in very good shape to open up even earlier than that. We will talk to them. But we’re all ready and we’re counting on the governors to do a great job, ”says Trump. “Others are going to have to take more time until they are able to say, ‘We are ready to go. “And that’s fine. We understand it. Some governors have a very difficult situation. “
There have been several conversations about what it might look like. An idea put forward by the authorities is to focus on “cold spots” – cities or states where the number of infections is very low and which should start easing restrictions sooner.
The president suggested Tuesday that there could be up to 20 states with contagion rates low enough to consider easing the restrictions even before May 1.
White House officials had envisioned small regional reopenings on May 1 that would not actually stimulate the national economy but would appear to be moving forward, while continuing to lessen the effects in areas that needed.
There was hope that with small regional reopenings in states like Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere, it would put pressure on the governors of neighboring states to take similar action.
Elsewhere in the country, however, states have begun to come together to promulgate regional reopenings. The Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have announced a consortium on the relaxation of restrictions, and a similar effort has been undertaken by governors of the West Coast.
Trump said on Tuesday that he was comfortable if some states took longer than others.
“We have a country, but we have a lot of different parts. It’s a puzzle. We have beautiful parts, beautiful states with capable governors. They know when it’s time to open, “he said. “And we don’t want to pressure anyone. I will not pressure any governor to open it. “