President Trump spoke with the nation’s governors Thursday outlining his administration’s plans for a phased approach to lifting stay-home orders imposed to check the spread of the deadly coronavirus and allow more people to return to work.
On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined six indicators his administration was looking to see before the stay-home order could be eased.
How do they compare? Newsom said at a news conference he had not yet reviewed the White House plan but that he was encouraged after hearing from the president Thursday that they seem to be on the same page. Here’s a look at some questions about the plans. Like Newsom, Trump said his plan would be “science-based.”
Q President Trump this week talked about reopening being his decision, so what does the White House plan say about the role of state and local authorities?
A The White House plan is not framed as a mandate, but rather offers “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again,” with “proposed state or regional” criteria. It says the phases of reopening are “implementable on statewide or county-by-county basis at governors’ discretion.”
It also notes that “state and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances.” It also says that “where appropriate, governors should work on a regional basis to satisfy these criteria and to progress through the phases outlined below.” Newsom has coordinated with the governors of Washington and Oregon on reopening.
Q Newsom’s outline for modifying restrictions did not mention a timeline, but does Trump’s?
A The outline of the White House plan doesn’t mention dates but Trump told governors over a conference call that some states would be able to reopen businesses and schools before May 1, when federal social distancing guidelines are set to expire, according to Bloomberg News. Also, the White House plan mentions 14-day periods of declining cases as triggers for lifting restrictions. Newsom’s plan is not that specific.
Q Newsom’s plan calls for modifying his stay-home order after reaching “indicators” that new infections and hospitalizations are easing, testing and tracking capabilities are sufficient to monitor cases and hospitals can manage surges of patients. What does the White House plan say about that?
A The White House plan calls for state and local governments to satisfy “gating criteria” before lifting their restrictions in three phases. Those criteria are a “downward trajectory” of influenza-like illnesses, “covid-like syndromic cases,” documented positive cases and positive tests as a percentage of total tests reported within a 14-day period. They also include hospitals having the ability to “treat all patients without crisis care” and a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”
Q Newsom’s sixth “indicator” was the ability to reimpose restrictions as needed. Does the White House plan also envision reimposing restrictions?
A Yes, it says that as reopening occurs, state and local officials must “monitor conditions and immediately take steps to limit and mitigate any rebounds or outbreaks by restarting a phase or returning to an earlier phase, depending on severity.”
Q Newsom’s plan called for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to continue to support physical distancing as they reopen, and he laid out a stark picture of life in California as restrictions are eased. Restaurants might have half as many tables, food servers in masks and gloves, disposable menus, temperature checks at the door. Schools might have staggered schedules with continued online learning at home. Businesses would continue to maintain distancing. Does the president’s plan have anything like that?
A The White House plan includes for all phases recommendations to continue hygienic practices, hand-washing, avoiding touching your face, frequent disinfection and wearing of face masks in public, particularly for public transit. Employers would continue with temperature checks and not letting sick workers into the workplace.
The first phase of the reopening calls for maintaining remote “telework” where possible, minimizing non-essential travel, closing common areas at work. Schools, cay care and camps would remain closed. Visits to elder care facilities would remain banned and more vulnerable older and sicker people would be advised to consider maintaining the stay-home restrictions.
However, it would allow gatherings of up to 10 people, restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and sporting venues could open with “strict physical distancing protocols.” Bars would stay closed but gyms could reopen with appropriate physical distancing and sanitation.
Q What do the next phases of the White House plan allow?
A The second phase would kick in after satisfying a second two-weeks of the “gating criteria” with no evidence of a rebound in cases. The elderly and medically vulnerable would be advised to remain under shelter-in-place, but gatherings of up to 50 people would be allowed, with appropriate physical distancing. Non-essential travel could resume.
Non-essential travel could resume, but telework would be encouraged where possible and common areas at workplaces would remain closed. Theaters, places of worship, sporting arenas could reopen with “moderate” distancing measures. Elective surgeries could resume, and bars could reopen with “diminished standing-room occupancy.”
Q So what’s the third phase?
A After a third two-week period of meeting the gating criteria, the third phase calls for unrestricted staffing of workplaces and allowing the vulnerable and elderly to resume public interactions with appropriate physical distancing and sanitation measures.
Coronavirus: How Trump’s plan for reopening America compares with California’s