In Reversal, Trump Says States Are In Charge Of Reopening, Offers Plan With No Increase In Testing
President Donald Trump on Thursday unveiled his three-step plan for reopening states shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, essentially deferring the responsibility to each state individually.
“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump said during a White House briefing. “Some states will be able to open up sooner than others. Some states are not in the kind of trouble that others are in. Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we are starting our life again. We are starting rejuvenation of our economy again in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”
“Every state is very different,” he continued. “They are all beautiful. We love them all but they are very, very different. If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that. And if they believe it’s time to reopen, we will provide them the freedom and guidance to accomplish that task and very, very quickly, depending on what they want to do.“
The three-phase guidelines involve an easing of restrictions that will slowly get the economy back up running.
Once states had a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases within a two week period, as well as an efficient testing program, they could begin phase one, in which gatherings of more than 10 people would still be discouraged, schools would remain closed and companies that could offer teleworking options would continue to operate remotely. The first phase also calls for at-risk individuals to remain sheltered in place.
However, during this phase, some large venues such as restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship could reopen if they adhered to social distancing guidelines.
In phase two, schools would reopen and non-essential travel could resume. Gatherings of over 50 people are not recommended.
In the third phase, states that have not had a resurgence of cases could resume all activities with limited social distancing guidelines. Nursing homes would begin allowing visitors and bars could reopen with increased standing room.
Governors were largely pleased with Trump’s decision to give states more autonomy in making decisions, days after he claimed he had “total authority” over them.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Friday he not only agreed with the president’s decision that it should be up to the states, but noted it was “the Constitution.” Cuomo also said New York would need financial assistance in order to increase their coronavirus testing and combat the spread, telling Trump not to “pass the buck without passing the bucks.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) told the New York Times he was pleased the guidelines were “hands off.”
“The president recognized, finally, I think, that the rightful decision-making is with the states and the governors’ offices, both Republicans and Democrats,” Inslee said.
However, not everyone was as content with the guidelines, as many complained on Twitter that there was not adequate testing in place to reopen and that Trump deferring to governors was just a ploy to help his reelection bid.
Eric Lipton of the New York Times tweeted Thursday that “Trump is setting up a dynamic where he can complain governors (and potential political points by claiming) are not moving fast enough to “reopen” while Trump does not himself have to deal with the consequences of death and disease if governors open too soon.”
Seems like Trump is setting up a dynamic where he can complain governors (and potential political points by claiming) are not moving fast enough to “reopen” while Trump does not himself have to deal with the consequences of death and disease if governors open too soon.
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) April 16, 2020
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) criticized the lack of testing and predicted “even more Americans will die” if Trump pushes reopening too quickly.
“There’s no way to safely reopen without massive testing,” Schiff tweeted. “Yet we’re barely testing more people this week than last. And hospitals continue to report serious bottlenecks. If Trump ignores the experts and forces a premature reopening, [e]ven more Americans will die.”
There’s no way to safely reopen without massive testing.
Yet we’re barely testing more people this week than last. And hospitals continue to report serious bottlenecks.
If Trump ignores the experts and forces a premature reopening,
Even more Americans will die.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 17, 2020
House Whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) agreed with Schiff’s statement that there needs to be more testing, and proposed mobile testing as a potential solution.
“Health experts agree: to safely reopen the economy, testing must be widely available,” he tweeted. “I am proposing mobile testing sites, to ensure that in communities where people can’t come to the tests, the tests can come to them.”
The U.S. has, as of Friday, more than 690,000 cases and just under 36,000 deaths — nearly a third of which are in New York.