WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump issued guidelines to states Thursday aimed at easing social distancing restrictions and reopening parts of the country as it grapples with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House strategy, provided to all 50 governors during a phone call, outlines a three-phase approach to gradually bring back parts of public life such as schools, restaurants and theaters in certain areas based on evidence the virus is waning.
"We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time," Trump said at the coronavirus task force press briefing Thursday.
Each phase requires a 14-day period of "downward trajectory" of COVID-19 cases in order to move on to the next phase. Qualifying for each phase will be judged on certain criteria for widespread testing for patients and health care workers, contact tracing and hospital capacity. Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines to lifting restrictions could be implemented statewide or by county.
The first phase of the "Opening Up America Again" plan requires states or regions meet the criteria and continue practicing social distancing guidelines currently in place. The phase suggests:
Requiring vulnerable individuals to continue sheltering in place.
Practicing physical distancing in public, avoiding socializing in groups of more than 10 people.
Minimizing non-essential travel, continuing to encourage telework.
Shuttered schools should remained closed.
Prohibiting nursing home and hospital visits.
Elective surgeries can resume, on an outpatient basis.
Bars should remain closed, but gyms can open under physical distancing and sanitation protocols.