Trump unveils three-phase plan to reopen states amid coronavirus pandemic

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President Donald Trump announced federal guidelines on Thursday to reopen the United States, which forced governors to make decisions about the economies of their states.

Trump called the recommendations “the next front in our war, which is called to reopen America.”

He said the strategy is based on “verifiable data” and that “the benchmarks must be respected at each phase”.

Read the guidelines here

“Now that we have gone beyond the top in new cases, we are starting our lives over again. We are recommencing the rejuvenation of our economy in a safe, structured and very responsible manner, “said Trump. “We are not opening all of a sudden, but one careful step at a time. “

In the first phase of the three-phase plan, restaurants, cinemas and major sports venues would be appropriate to reopen under certain conditions, unlike schools, nurseries and bars.

The plan, published Thursday afternoon, aims to “mitigate the risk of resurgence” of the pandemic and “protect the most vulnerable,” according to the guidelines.

It is “state-wide or county-by-county achievable” at the discretion of the governor of each state – a glaring contradiction to the president’s earlier assertion that he had “total authority” to govern the governors when and how to reopen.

The guidelines do not suggest a reopening date, and Trump agreed that it would be “a gradual process.”

To begin implementing the guidelines, states must first meet a “trigger” criterion that includes a “downward trajectory of documented cases within 14 days” or a “downward trajectory of positive percentage tests of total tests within 14 days period (dish or increasing volume of tests) “, as well as hospital preparation.

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If this criterion is met, States could then enter phase one, in accordance with the directives.

According to phase 1 protocols, large venues such as restaurants, cinemas, sports venues and places of worship would be allowed to reopen if they “operate under strict physical distancing protocols,” as directed.

Gyms would also be allowed to reopen “if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols,” according to the plan. However, the bars “should remain closed”.

In addition, elective surgery would be allowed to resume “as needed, on an outpatient basis” in some institutions.

Schools and activities for young people, such as daycare centers and camps that are currently closed, should remain closed, and visits to retirement homes and hospitals should be prohibited.

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“Those who interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict hygiene protocols,” said the plan.

In phase one, “all vulnerable people should continue to stay there” and members of households with vulnerable residents “should be aware that when returning to work or in other environments where remoteness is impractical, they could take the virus home. ”

It also asks employers to allow employees to telecommute.

The plan also emphasizes that all people should continue to practice social distance in public and that they should continue to minimize non-essential displacement.

Phase two, as directed, applies to states and regions “without evidence of rebound” that “meet the trigger criteria a second time.”

During this phase, schools and activities such as daycares and camps may reopen and non-essential displacement may resume. Visits to care facilities for the elderly and hospitals would however be prohibited.

Large sites that were allowed to reopen in Phase 1, such as restaurants, cinemas and sports venues, could remain open and could reduce their physical distancing protocols to a “moderate” level.

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According to the plan, bars could start operating with “reduced occupancy of standing places”, while gymnasiums could remain open with “strict” remote sanitation protocols.

Phase three would then kick off states and regions without “any evidence of a rebound” that “meets the trigger criteria a third time”.

At this point, “vulnerable individuals” could resume interactions with the public, but should practice social distancing, as directed. Low-risk populations should always “consider minimizing the time spent in overcrowded environments”.

It was only in phase three that work sites could resume normal staffing protocols without restrictions and that visits to elderly care facilities and hospitals could resume. Those who interact with residents and patients still need to be “diligent in hygiene.” According to phase three guidelines, large sites could operate under “limited” social distancing protocols, gymnasiums could remain open with “standard” sanitation protocols and bars could operate with “increased occupancy of standing rooms “

The White House sees Trump’s announcement as an indication that “governors will have to make decisions about what is right for their states,” a White House official told NBC News.

Some states may be able to move to the next phase before May 1, the official said. In some states, governors may open certain counties before others.

The guidelines, said the official, represent the “consensus of healthcare professionals”, including Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator; Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost expert on infectious diseases; and Dr. Stephen Hahn, chief of the Food and Drug Administration.

Hours before the plan was released, Trump told the governors that they would have the power to make their own decisions.

“You are going to call your own shots,” Trump said in a videoconference with the governors Thursday afternoon in the situation room, according to two people who listened to the call. Earlier this week, he said that “the President of the United States calls the shots” when it reopens.

A coordinated withdrawal of social distancing measures that have shut down businesses across the country would reopen part of the economy.

More than 32,000 people died in the United States on Thursday from coronavirus. In addition, more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment insurance in the past four weeks, as the labor market in all sectors of the economy continues to be devastated.

“To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and the functioning of our economy. In the long run, you can’t do one without the other, “said Trump.

NBC News reported earlier on Thursday that the White House was circulating a plan to reopen the economy that would advise areas with low coronavirus infections to begin withdrawing from social distancing after May 1, most affected areas may have to wait months or more.

Regions that may be the first to revive economic activity should have “limited transmission, large public health and health system capacities”, and they should be ready to monitor the situation closely for a resurgence of infections, according to the 10-page document, which was distributed to a new working group and shared with NBC News. The plan did not specify the parameters for how communities would know if or when they fell into this category.

Trump’s announcement came as governors of the country began to discuss plans to ease some of the restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The northeastern and Pacific Coast states on Monday launched separate regional pacts to coordinate plans on how to open up and revive their economies, while seven states in the Midwest announced a similar deal on Thursday.

However, Capitol Hill governors and legislators, as well as business leaders, have stressed the need for more testing capacity to really begin to loosen social distancing restrictions. NBC News reported Thursday that the White House is exploring ways to increase testing so communities can meet the president’s May 1 calendar.

“Tests are the key to opening our country to resume our lives,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, Thursday evening. “The vague and inconsistent White House document does nothing to compensate for the president’s failure. listen to scientists and produce and distribute national rapid tests. ”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, apparently a Democratic presidential candidate, has overturned Trump’s directives, saying at a CNN town hall that he “would not call it a plan. I think what he did was sort of kicked. “

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