Washington, April 17 (IANS) As COVID-19 continues to spread across the US, President Donald Trump has given governors guidance on reopening state economies in the coming months.
The guidelines for “Opening up America Again” outline three phases in which states can gradually ease their lockdowns.
Trump on Thursday promised governors they would be handling the process themselves, with help from the federal government, the BBC reported.
The US has 654,301 confirmed cases and 32,186 deaths due to the virus.
Trump has suggested some states could re-open this month.
In his daily briefing on Thursday, President Trump declared “the next front in our war – opening up America again”.
“America wants to be open and Americans want to be open,” he said. “A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution.”
He said that a prolonged lockdown risked inflicting a serious toll on public health. He warned of a “sharp rise” in drug abuse, alcohol abuse, heart disease, and other “physical and mental” problems.
Trump told reporters that healthy citizens would be able to return to work “as conditions allow”. He said Americans would continue to be called upon to maintain social distancing measures and to stay home if they are unwell.
He said that re-opening the US economy would be done “one careful step at a time” but he called on state governors to move “very, very quickly, depending on what they want to do”.
The administration’s 18-page guidance document details three phases to reopen state economies, with each phase lasting, at minimum, 14 days. The guidelines in full can be seen here.
They include some recommendations across all three phases including good personal hygiene and employers developing policies to enforce social distancing, testing and contact tracing.
Phase one includes much of the current lockdown measures such as avoiding non-essential travel and not gathering in groups. But it says large venues such as restaurants, places of worship and sports venues “can operate under strict physical distancing protocols”.
If there is no evidence of a resurgence of the coronavirus, phase two allows non-essential travel to resume. The guidance says schools can re-open and bars can operate “with diminished standing-room occupancy”.
Under phase three, states which are still seeing a downward trend of symptoms and cases can allow “public interactions” with physical distancing and the unrestricted staffing of worksites. Visits to care homes and hospitals can resume and bars can increase their standing room capacity.
Some regions could begin returning to normal after a month-long evaluation period, at the earliest, according to the document.
In places where there are more infections or where rates begin to rise, it could take longer.
The co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, Dr Deborah Birx, told Thursday’s briefing that as states worked through the three phases, they could allow for more and more employees to return to work in increments.
Phase three would be the “new normal” and would still include suggestions that vulnerable people should avoid crowded spaces.