WASHINGTON — A draft plan to reopen the economy being circulated by the Trump administration would advise areas with low numbers of coronavirus infections to begin pulling back on social distancing measures after May 1, with harder-hit areas possibly having to wait an additional month or more.
Regions that can be the first to open up closed parts of the economy should have “limited transmission, ample public health and health system capacity,” and they should be prepared to monitor the situation closely for a resurgence of infections, according to the 10-page document circulated to a new task force and shared with NBC News. The plan stopped short of giving specific metrics for how communities would know whether or when they fall into that category.
Areas identified as recovering hot spots, where the virus is circulating but contained, would likely have to wait until June to start bringing industries back online in phases, with child care facilities and schools among the first facilities to reopen so parents can return to work, the plan said.
The draft guidelines do not detail a timeline or a strategy for when and how other sectors of the economy should reopen.
The document was first reported by The Washington Post.
Trump said at a news briefing Wednesday that the White House would be announcing guidelines for states on Thursday.
“The battle continues, but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak of new cases. Hopefully that will continue and we will continue to make great progress,” the president told reporters in the Rose Garden. “These encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country. We will be talking about that tomorrow.”
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The president has previously said he believes some areas should be able to pull back on social distancing measures by May 1. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment on the draft plans.
Meanwhile, governors have been rolling out their own reopening strategies. States across the Northeast and along the Pacific Coast launched separate regional pacts Monday to plan for how to open up and get their economies going again, and the governors of California and New York have laid out more detailed steps they foresee their states taking. That has created concern among Trump’s allies that the White House will look as if it is falling behind.
Despite Trump’s assertion that he had the authority to order governors to reopen the economy, the administration plan says decisions will be up to state and local officials with “guidance and support” from the federal government.
The document was described as giving guidance to state and local governments on how to “assess community readiness to reopen closed spaces” so they can “make an informed decision about when it is appropriate to begin to ease community mitigation measures while continuing to protect the most at-risk individuals.”
The plan acknowledged that there is a “significant risk of resurgence of the virus” and that reopening will be contingent on confidence that the number of infections is low. It called for large-scale hiring of public health workers to support testing, contact tracing and data entry.
“We can’t ask people to go back to work unless you’re confident they have a safe workplace,” said Teamsters President James Hoffa, who told Trump on one of a series of White House conference calls Wednesday that he was concerned about his members’ having enough protective equipment and testing to return to work.
Trump held the calls with business leaders, including manufacturing, agriculture and construction CEOs and advocacy groups, on steps that could be taken to help businesses reopen. There was no talk of follow-up discussions, Hoffa said.
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Public health experts have warned that easing restrictions too soon could cause a resurgence in infections just as there are signs of leveling off in certain places. The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said that a widespread opening of the economy on May 1 was “a bit overly optimistic” and that a phased-in approach from area to area would be needed.
But the plan warned that even when areas do start easing up on social distancing guidelines, people should be prepared for the measures to be put back in place if there is a resurgence in infections, and it said public health officials need to closely monitor the situation.
It also suggested a certification for businesses that are following best practices, giving them certificates they could display similar to food inspection letter grades.