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The Presidential Plan to Lift the Lockdown

April 17, 2020
Trump administration released guidance for states to emerge from quarantines Thursday that call for a gradual, three-phase process.

The Trump administration released new guidelines for governors to use while reopening their state’s economies following coronavirus quarantine procedures. The “Opening Up America Again” plan, according to the White House, can be implemented at the state level or by individual counties at governors’ discretion.

The plan is laid out in three phases, with a series of “gating criteria” it uses to gauge infection levels and avoid a resurgence in infection rates. A state or region meets the criteria if hospitals in the area can handle the rate of infections without strain and if tests show symptoms and cases of COVID-19 declining over a 14-day period.

If a state or region qualifies for those criteria—and, according to the White House, some already do—they can proceed to the first phase, which essentially allows for non-vulnerable members of the population to return to work with proper social distancing procedures. Vulnerable members of the population will remain in self-isolation, and employers are directed to “strongly consider special accommodations” for them.

If, after 14 days of this, the state still meets the gating criteria, it can proceed to the second phase, which allows for more businesses like bars and schools to reopen. The final phase, after a third 14-day testing period, directs employers to “resume unrestricted staffing,” although it maintains that vulnerable members of the population and others should remain cautious.

The guidelines are a notable step back from the President’s earlier comments, when he claimed the power to open state economies and that he wanted to reopen the economy with a “big bang.” The new guidelines give state governors considerable leeway—for example, in evaluating number of cases using total results or a positive issued percentage of issued tests—and provides a framework for a gradual reopening.

“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

The plan may encounter difficulties chiefly in terms of the testing shortages that have plagued the United States from the outset of the coronavirus outbreak. New antibody tests arriving on the market now promise to detect whether or not a given patient has encountered the virus, but not whether or not they’re still contagious. That may make the 14-day testing periods involved in the plan difficult to implement.

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