President Donald Trump set new guidelines yesterday for the United States to exit the closure due to the coronavirus in a three-step approach aimed at reviving the US economy even as the country continues to fight the epidemic.
The recommendations call on states to show a "downward trajectory" of COVID-19 cases or positive disease tests over 14 days before moving forward with the plan, which gradually eases restrictions on companies that have been closed to limit the spread of the virus.
"We are not opening our doors all at once, but at one small step at a time," Trump told reporters at the White House. The president had said earlier this month that he wanted to reopen the economy with what he called a "big bang."
The plan is a set of recommendations for state governors, not orders. In this sense, the plan represented a setback by Trump, who on Monday insisted he had full power to direct states to reopen or remain closed.
In the first stage of the reopening, the guidelines say that groups of more than 10 people should be avoided if appropriate spacing protocols are not practical. Unnecessary travel should be reduced, remote work should be encouraged, and common office areas remain closed.
Schools are still closed in the first stage, but large places like cinemas, restaurants, sports fields and places of worship can be opened with "strict physical distancing protocols"
Hospitals badly hit by the health crisis may resume elective surgeries, which are critical to their incomes, and gyms can reopen with the new protocols.
In the second stage, which applies to states and regions with "no evidence of a rebound,” the guidelines recommend avoiding groups of more than 50 where strict physical distancing is not possible. Unnecessary travel can resume, schools and youth camps can meet again and bars can be reopened.
The third stage involves unrestricted employment in the workplace, but Dr Deborah Perks, the White House anti-coronavirus task force coordinator who took a lead role in designing the guidelines, said that the “new normal” will remain in place: the need for cleanliness of the highest standards and appropriate social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus from those without symptoms.
Trump is pushing to get the US economy to work again after the closure that has left millions of Americans unemployed. More than 20 million people applied for unemployment in the United States last month, while more than 90% of the country were ordered to stay at home.