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President Trump announced his new guidelines for “opening up America again” amid the coronavirus pandemic Thursday that allow for a push for normalcy in some areas even before the April 30 date previously set by the White House — in some states, as soon as Friday.
"Instead of a blanket shutdown, we will focus on sheltering the highest-risk individuals," he said.
Trump said the "curve" of new cases "has flattened" and 30 percent of the country hasn't had a new case in the past seven days. While some areas will reopen later, the president said it's necessary to have a working economy in order to keep food and medical supplies being delivered to where they're needed.
"Some states will be able to open up sooner than others," Trump said. "Some states are not in the kind of trouble others are in. Now that we have passed the peak of new cases, we're starting our life again. We're starting rejuvenation of our economy again in a very safe and structured responsible fashion."
The guidelines for “reopening” after the coronavirus pandemic are data-driven, not date-driven, White House officials told FOX News. Layered reopenings will be governor-led using medically based metrics and not a one-size-fits-all approach. The White House coronavirus task force medical advisors, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Robert Redfield, have all signed off on the plan, officials said.
They propose a phased reopening, allowing some workers to return to businesses in states that have had a 14-day downward trajectory in cases. States that do opt to begin reopening should have widespread and efficient testing capabilities as well as the health care capacity to handle a surge in cases if needed, as well as plans to protect the health and safety of critical workers, mass transit riders and workers and high-risk people like seniors in care facilities.
The phased approach suggests governors could opt for a statewide reopening or on a county-by-county basis.
"We have areas of the country that have gone through a terrible ordeal and we have others that have fortunately gotten through this very lightly," Fauci said.
In areas that do reopen, it will still be important for workers to practice good hygiene with frequent hand-washing. Anyone who feels sick should stay home. And employers should follow social distancing best practices, provide temperature checks and protective equipment and disinfect busy areas.
At-risk individuals should continue to shelter in place even once areas do reopen, according to the guidelines. Anyone out in public should follow social distancing practices and avoid groups of 10 or more people.
According to the guidelines, schools that are currently closed should remain closed. Workers who can telecommute should continue to telecommute. Large venues like movie theaters or sports venues could reopen but should use “Strict physical distancing protocols.” So should gyms. Bars should stay closed.
Health officials will add new "surveillance" to at-risk communities like nursing homes to catch any new cases that arise, according to Birx.
"For the hospitals, it's to ensure we can treat all the patients without any crisis case," she said.
In areas with no evidence of the virus rebounding after another 14 days, officials said nonessential travel can resume in “phase two” but social gatherings of 50 people should be avoided and at-risk individuals should continue to stay home. Teleworking is still advised, but schools can reopen. Only “moderate” social distancing protocols will be needed for sports venues, restaurants, churches and movie theaters. Some bars can reopen.
For areas that continue to show no signs of a COVID-19 rebound, “phase three” will allow unrestricted staffing at work sites. Only limited physical distancing will be required in most places.
Trump praised Americans' "shared national sacrifice to halt the spread of this disease."
“We took the greatest economy in the history of the world and we closed it in order to win this war,” he said.
Trump discussed the plans with members of Congress ahead of the announcement. During his calls with lawmakers, the president also pressed the need for more funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of money for loans to small businesses Thursday.
The president’s announcement came as some states have seen protests from residents who want social distancing guidelines lessened. Other states could still have another month or more of being “closed” ahead. In hard-hit New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier on Thursday that all nonessential workers have to stay home through May 15.
Trump said he was promoting states to work together in order to "harmonize" their regional efforts in safely reopening. A group of Midwestern governors said they would coordinate on reopening the region’s economy based on the rate of new COVID-19 infections, testing capabilities, health care capacity to handle a resurgence and workplace social distancing best practices, and several states on the coasts have previously announced similar plans.
Check back for updates on this developing story.