The White House unveiled new guidelines for states and localities on lifting coronavirus-related restrictions on citizens and businesses, as President Trump looks to bring the nation’s focus toward reigniting an economy battered by efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The protocols, titled “Opening Up America Again,” do not suggest a time frame for when states should lift restrictions, as the president had suggested they might earlier this week. “Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own state,” Trump said during a press conference Thursday evening.
The White House proposed a list of six metrics states should “satisfy before preceding to a phased opening.” They include:
- A decline in influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period and a downward trajectory of covid-like cases reported within a 14-day period;
- A decline in documented cases of COVID-19 within a two-week period or a decline in the share of coronavirus tests that come back positive, if test volume increases or remains flat; and
- Hospitals within a jurisdiction should have the capacity to treat all patients without “crisis care” and there should be a “robust testing program in place for at-risk health care workers” including tests for COVID-19 immunity.
If states meet these criteria, the guidelines suggest a three-phased approach to reopening the economy. The first stage would involve reopening of some businesses, including gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship “if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.” The guidelines suggest schools should remain closed, while employers should continue to encourage telework when possible and that nonessential travel be minimized.
No economy in the US has been hit harder than California. Gov. Newsom, who has allied with the Democratic governors of Oregon and Washington, avoided setting a timetable for easing restrictions that have gutted his economy.
Stay-home orders may be relaxed, but precautions will still be in place. Newsom noted that restaurants may reopen but the waiters may be wearing masks and gloves, and staff may check diners’ temperatures before allowing them inside. Schools may have to stagger start times to keep students from crowding classrooms. Mass gatherings, such as concerts or sporting events, are simply “not in the cards,” he said.
California’s six criteria for easing any lockdowns:
- “The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed.”
- “The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19.”
- “The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges.”
- “The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand.”
- “The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing.”
- “The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.”