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At the start of this week, President Trump claimed that he had total authority over reopening states’ economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although he ultimately backed down from these comments and ceded that this power falls with individual states (as the Constitution makes clear), yesterday, he unveiled a three-stage reopening plan for how states can potentially go about returning to full activity. Although this plan’s guidelines are suggestions rather than orders, their directives may pave a path toward flattening the curve, reopening society, and restoring a semblance of normalcy to everyday life.
What should states do before implementing these guidelines?
The main prerequisite for states to begin implementing Trump’s three-phase reopening plan is for them to show a “downward trajectory” of new COVID-19 diagnoses or positive tests during a 14-day span. After passing this threshold, states can start enacting legislation to gradually allow some of the businesses that have had to temporarily close due to the pandemic – restaurants, bars, and other public gathering spaces – to slowly reopen.
In addition to a 14-day clear period, states seeking to reopen should ensure that their hospitals have adequate testing in place, especially antibody testing for healthcare workers. Healthcare facilities should also be prepared to supply adequate protective equipment to their workers and anticipate sudden surges in the need for protective supplies. They should also set up screening and testing sites for anybody showing COVID-19 symptoms and establish contact tracing systems.
What happens in each stage?
In stage one, non-essential travel and working from home will remain encouraged, but gatherings of at most 10 people during which social distancing is maintained can be allowed. Bars would likely remain closed in this phase, but schools, movie theaters, restaurants, stadiums, and places of worship could reopen if they strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines (though some experts suggest stadiums and live venues could be shuttered until late 2021).
In stage two, states that show no evidence of a rebound in cases – whether an uptick in new cases after a downward trajectory or positive second tests – can permit gatherings of at most 50 people if and only if social distancing can be maintained. Non-essential travel will no longer be discouraged, and bars with a lower amount of standing room occupancy can reopen. Hospitals can also resume any postponed in-patient elective surgeries, which comprise a large portion of hospital revenue.
In stage three, society would mostly begin to look as it did before the pandemic. Workplaces would no longer be subject to staffing limits, but workers would likely be required to have more space between each other to minimize any asymptomatic spreading of COVID-19. Anybody showing symptoms of COVID-19 or any other illness would be encouraged to work from home.
What do experts and politicians think?
According to Trump’s White House, three leading figures in the public response to the COVID-19 outbreak – Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force; Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH); and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – have approved the plan. However, other public health experts have taken issue with the plan.
Ron Klain, who led the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, criticized Trump’s three-stage reopening plan for not addressing how states could increase their testing capabilities or specifying the levels of cases needed for states to begin reopening. Klain is also known for his work advising prospective Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who likewise expressed disappointment with the plan’s lack of specifics. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime vocal Trump opponent, shared similar concerns.
What do you think of Trump’s three-phase reopening plan? Share your thoughts in the comments.