(The Center Square) – President Donald Trump announced Thursday a plan to allow states to begin reopening their economies in a phased approach.
“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling ‘Opening up America Again,’” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House on Thursday.
“To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy,” he added. “Over the long haul you cannot do one without the other.”
Trump said his administration’s new federal guidelines will allow governors to start a “phased and deliberate approach” to the reopening of their economies, a strategy “based on hard, verifiable data.” Some states have been under stay-at-home orders for more than a month to reduce spread the novel coronavirus.
Trump on Wednesday floated the plans on reopening the economy, saying he was talking with governors on Thursday morning.
The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday morning released new data showing more than 5.2 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week. Over the past four week, 22 million people have filed initial unemployment claims.
Several groups of states, such as California, Washington and Oregon, have been considering opening economies regionally. Earlier this week, seven Northeast states announced a similar initiative, as did seven Midwest states.
There have been 632,220 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 31,071 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are slowing the spread, we are flattening the curve, we have preserved the capacity of our health care system, and we have protected the most vulnerable,” said Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Pence said the federal guidelines can be applied statewide or on a county-by-county basis.
Dr. Deborah Birx, part of the task force, detailed three phases for states to follow, adding that the guidelines don’t include a timeline for when states should advance stages, leaving that decision up to governors. States must show a 14-day decline in total cases before starting the phases, she said.
“We want the governors, with the data that they have community by community, to be setting up those timelines,” Birx said.
“Phase one” includes vulnerable individuals continuing quarantining, continued social distancing measures such as staying six feet in distance from other people, and continued avoidance on nonessential travel. For employers, telework should be prioritized, but certain employers could start bringing work forces back in phases.
“Phase two” includes continued social distancing measures but allows for gatherings of up to 50 people and resumed nonessential travel. The phase continues to encourage telework but says those returning to work should avoid congregating in common areas.
Schools and daycares could also be reopened under “phase two.”
“Phase three” includes “essentially returning to our new normal,” Birx said. The phase will require continued hygiene practices such as handwashing and some social distancing measures, as there will likely still be an issue with spread from asymptomatic individuals, she added.
Derek Draplin is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as an opinion producer at Forbes, and as a reporter at Michigan Capitol Confidential and The Detroit News. He’s also an editor at The Daily Caller.