President Trump spoke Thursday evening at the White House about his “Opening Up America Again” plan.
“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump said. He added that some states will be able to open up sooner than others.
According to the administration, re-openings could occur at a statewide or county-by-county basis at a governor’s discretion.
“We’re starting our life again. We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again,” the commander-in-chief explained. “This is a gradual process.”
Mr. Trump added that rather than implementing a blanket shutdown, the country will focus on sheltering the highest-risk individuals, including those with underlying medical conditions and the elderly.
He said that several governors have told him they are “in good shape,” and that some states could begin reopening as early as Friday.
New White House guidelines reportedly outline a phased approach to restoring normal commerce and services across the country, but only for areas that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.
President Trump unveiled his administration’s plans to ease social distancing requirements on a call Thursday with the nation’s governors.
Places that have a declining number of infections and strong testing would start a three-phased gradual reopening of businesses and schools, with each phase lasting at least 14 days, in order to ensure that the outbreak does not accelerate again.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors, according to an audio recording obtained by The Associated Press. “We’re going to be standing along side of you.”
Under the federal guidelines, those most susceptible to the disease would be advised to remain sheltered in place until their area enters the final phase. Even after that point, they will be advised to take precautions in order to avoid close contact with other people.
Trump held conference calls earlier Thursday with lawmakers that he has named to a new congressional advisory task force.
New federal data shows that at least 22 million Americans have been laid off or furloughed in the last month.
However, the legislators also urged the President not to risk public health in an effort to reopen the economy.
Major News Conference tonight, the White House at 6:00 P.M. (Eastern), to explain Guidelines for OPENING UP AMERICA AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2020
“My highest priority on this task force will be to ensure the federal government’s efforts to reopen our economy are bipartisan, data-driven, and based on the expertise of public health professionals,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.
Business leaders also told the President during calls on Wednesday that a significant increase in testing, in addition to wider availability of protective equipment, is necessary before they can safely restart operations.
The federal government foresees a gradual national recovery from the coronavirus. That means disruptive mitigation measures may be needed in some places at least until a vaccine becomes available, which may not happen until next year.
“It’s not going to immediately be a situation where we have stadiums full of people,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday. “We’re Americans. We will adapt,” he added.
President Trump said on Wednesday that data indicates the U.S. is “past the peak” of the COVID-19 epidemic. He added that the numbers have “put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, added that the data shows the nation “improving,” but cautioned that Americans had to recommit to social distancing in order to keep up the positive momentum.
There are 658,263 cases and 32,186 deaths across the U.S. as of Thursday evening. Florida had 22,674 confirmed cases and 668 deaths.