The Trump administration indicated it will allow federal social distancing guidelines to expire Thursday.
With peak viral transmission largely behind the nation and economic reopening plans being set into motion, President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday in an Oval Office news briefing that federal public health orders will now begin “fading out,” giving states increased procedural control going forward.
Since mid-March, states have been encouraged by federal officials to follow the administration’s “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines, which included enhanced personal hygiene suggestions, growth of populations working from home, decreased social interaction and other advisories meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
While a majority of states have followed these guidelines directly, others have instead chosen to make them a baseline, implementing executive orders to enforce adherence to broader public health measures.
The guidelines would not be done away with entirely upon expiration Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said, indicating all of them were in some way incorporated into the federal plan states have been asked to follow as they begin reopening their communities.
“The current guidelines, I think you can say, are very much incorporated in the guidance we’re giving states to open up American again,” Pence said.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 29, 2020
“Frankly, every state in America has embraced those guidelines or even done more. Now, our focus is working with states as governors like Gov. John Bel Edwards unveil plans to open up their states again,” the vice president said, referring to the Louisiana governor who was present at the briefing. “And the new guidance that we’ve issued is guidance for how they can do that safely and responsibly.”
The administration previously had come to the table on April 16 with a tranched plan to reopen the U.S. economy in three phases.
The plan, meant to be put into place by governors on a rolling basis only after several restrictive health criteria were met, would begin with a period of slow public re-entry, allowing specific business reopenings and a return to small-group gatherings, but continue to emphasize “telework” and social distancing.
With even the hard-hit state of New York now reporting a slow decline in confirmed coronavirus case totals, according to The Associated Press, many governors across the country believe they soon may be ready to enter that first phase.
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated his state might begin reopening on a regional basis as early as mid-May, despite leading the nation in both deaths and confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
First phase for individuals:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) April 17, 2020
According to The Advocate, Lousiana’s Democratic executive has also expressed support for the Trump administration’s efforts to procure and distribute the resources necessary for a federalist reopening strategy, saying those efforts are “sufficient” for his state to begin reopening shortly.
“They’ve committed to resourcing Louisiana’s request for 200,000 test kits per month,” Edwards said. “That gets us to 43 out of every 1,000 tested each month. We believe that’s sufficient for us to move forward as we’re able to reopen our economy.”
As of Monday, nine states have begun partial reopening, with seven expected to see shutdown orders lapse at month’s end, The New York Times reported.
States currently reopening are Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Current shutdown orders expire Friday in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Nevada and Texas.
According to Johns Hopkins data, the U.S. recently passed the threshold of 1 million confirmed cases, and more than 60,000 Americans have died from the virus.
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