President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force on April 16 presented a three-phase plan for the reopening of America. The strategy calls for states to move at their own pace toward recovery and normalization, depending upon their respective progress in mitigating the threat posed by COVID-19. Benchmarks and guidelines have been put in place to measure the readiness of each state to ease current restrictions and open schools, businesses, and sporting venues.
The president began Thursday’s press briefing with good news regarding the spread of Coronavirus. “Our experts say the curve has flattened and the peak in new cases is behind us,” he told reporters. “Nationwide, more than 850 counties or nearly 30% of our country have reported no new cases in the last seven days.”
The plan, it seems, has not been unveiled a moment too soon, as protests against the shutdown begin to spring up around the country. Until now, the vast majority of Americans have shown remarkable restraint and compliance, considering that some of their constitutional rights were suspended practically overnight and virtually by decree. That compliance was never going to last very long.
Specific influential individuals, such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, had even suggested that the national shutdown, along with “social distancing” orders, would perhaps need to remain in force for several more months. Such people fundamentally misunderstand the way Americans would have reacted to that idea. Even two more months of these new rules would likely have led to massive civil unrest – which would have entirely defeated the alleged purpose of the closures.
Trump was aware from the beginning that a prolonged shutdown was unsustainable both from an economic and a social standpoint:
“A prolonged lockdown, combined with a forced economic depression, would inflict an immense and wide-ranging toll on public health. This includes a sharp rise in drug abuse, alcohol abuse, suicide, heart disease, and many other dimensions of physical and mental well-being. Moreover, many patients have put needed medical care on hold, creating entirely new hazards for public health.”
Despite previous comments, President Trump was always bound to leave the final decisions to state governors. Still, the new plan, dubbed “Opening Up America Again,” will require states to satisfy certain conditions, including a decrease in reported symptoms and positive Coronavirus tests for 14 days before they can implement phase one.
Three Steps to Almost Normal
The first phase of this new plan errs on the side of caution but allows businesses to resume operations while continuing to minimize the risk of infection. Restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues, and gyms can reopen with reduced capacity. Schools, daycares, and camps will remain closed, along with bars. Non-essential travel is discouraged, as are social gatherings of more than ten people.
Phase two permits the schools and daycares to open, bars to recommence business with reduced capacity and non-essential travel to resume. The final stage gets the state back to something approaching normality, though some social distancing guidelines will remain in place.
The hardest-hit states could remain in limbo for at least a few more weeks, yet, while less-affected states or counties could now quicky begin the transition back to regular activity. The next challenge for Trump will be how to deal with governors who drag their feet over the lifting of restrictions, even if their states are seeing rapid reductions in the numbers of new cases. Of course, it is entirely possible that the residents of those states will not long remain patient with stay-at-home orders when they see the rest of the country waking up.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.
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