WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New federal guidelines to jumpstart the U.S. economy from its coronavirus shutdown recommend that states have a 14-day “downward trajectory” in coronavirus cases before beginning a three-phase process of re-opening, according to a White House document.
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
The document, seen by Reuters, lays out President Donald Trump’s plan for opening businesses in states across the country that have been ravaged by the pandemic and its harsh economic impact. Trump is set to unveil them publicly at a news conference later on Thursday.
Before states re-open, hospitals should have a “robust testing program” that includes antibody testing in place for healthcare workers, the guidelines say.
States should have the ability to set up screening and testing sites for people with symptoms and as well as contact tracing capabilities, and healthcare facilities should be able to supply personal protective gear independently and handle surges if COVID-19 cases increase again.
The document says the recommendations are “implementable on a statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.” Trump has tussled with governors over who has the ultimate authority to mandate a re-opening of states’ economies.
In the first phase of re-opening, the guidelines say groups of more than 10 people should be avoided if appropriate distancing measures are not practical. Non-essential travel should be minimized, telework should be encouraged, and common areas in offices closed.
Schools remain closed in phase 1, but large venues such as movies theaters, restaurants, stadiums, and places of worship can open with “strict physical distancing protocols.”
Hospitals, which have been hit hard by the health crisis, may resume elective surgeries, which are critical to their revenue streams, and gyms can re-open with new protocols. Bars should remain closed, it said.
In the second phase, applicable to states and regions with “no evidence of a rebound” in coronavirus cases, the guidelines recommend groups of more than 50 be avoided where social distancing is not practical. Non-essential travel can resume in this period, while schools and youth camps can reconvene and bars with “diminished standing-room occupancy” may re-open.
Phase three includes unrestricted staffing of workplaces.
A White House official described the guidelines as conservative and noted that they had been agreed to by the top doctors on the president’s coronavirus task force.
“The president’s new guidelines are in fact that. They are recommendations. They are flexible. They are data-driven,” a separate official said ahead of the release, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Trump is to unveil the new guidelines at a 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) White House briefing, as he pushes to get the U.S. economy going again after the coronavirus shutdown left millions of Americans jobless. More than 20 million people have filed for unemployment in the U.S. in the past month and over 90% of the country have been under stay-at-home orders.
Trump said on Wednesday some states with low numbers of infections will be ready to resume economic activity sooner than those hard hit by the highly contagious virus.
The official said that each governor will be able to look to the recommendations as a guide.
“They are layered,” the official said of Trump’s new recommendations. “They are signed off on and in full agreement by the medical experts on the task force.”
The medical experts who backed the plan are infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump was to preview the new plan with state governors on a video conference call before the news conference.
“I think they’ll be very happy with what we’re doing. They want to win this war and we’re going to win it,” Trump told an event celebrating American truck drivers.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Berkrot