WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that the country is moving toward reopening the economy, unveiling new guidelines for easing limits imposed on the public to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling, ‘Opening Up America Again’,” Trump said at a press conference, adding that the country is not opening “all at once” but “one careful step at a time.”
The announcement was made a day after the president declared that the United States has passed its peak in new coronavirus cases.
The guidelines come in three phases and will apply to states and regions that satisfy the so-called gating criteria, which include seeing a “downward trajectory” in coronavirus cases for 14 days and having a robust virus testing program for health care workers.
Phase one will keep schools and day-care facilities closed and companies are to continue encouraging teleworking. Large venues, such as sit-down dining and movie theaters, as well as gyms can operate under “strict” physical distancing protocols, but bars should remain closed.
Phase two, which states and regions can enter after a second 14-day period of case declines, will allow nonessential travel to resume, and schools and day-care facilities can reopen. Bars may operate with “diminished standing-room occupancy.”
Phase three, which comes after once again confirming that there is no evidence of a rebound in case numbers, will enable employers to resume “unrestricted staffing of worksites.”
Vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and individuals with serious underlying health conditions, will no longer have to shelter in place under phase three, although they should practice physical distancing, according to the guidelines.
Trump, who has been eager to get the world’s largest economy back to work ahead of the November election, said states that have been little affected by the virus can enter the phase one “literally tomorrow.”
“I really believe, I think, we’re going to have a lot of states open relatively soon,” the president said.
Trump declared a national emergency about a month ago and rolled out presidential guidelines to blunt the spread of the virus, calling for people to work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible and to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people.
The guidelines have been extended through the end of April, while states across the country have taken tougher action by issuing stay-at-home orders.
The United States has the most confirmed cases in the world, with the number of infections exceeding 660,000 and the death toll reaching more than 30,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.