The White House on Thursday unveiled a set of guidelines to governors on “reopening” the country, with recommendations that movie theaters and other large venues can reopen but only with continued adherence to physical distancing.
The guidelines set out three phases for reviving the economy, but only after states or regions meet a set of criteria that includes a downward trajectory of cases within a 14-day period, or of positive tests as a percent of total tests within that time frame. The White House guidelines also say that states have the ability to set up “safe and efficient screening and testing sites.”
Even then, President Donald Trump reportedly made clear in a phone call with governors on Thursday that it was up to them to determine what to do. That is a reversal from Trump’s insistence earlier this week that he had the authority to mandate openings, as he has been angling to lift guidelines on May 1.
“The President gave up the authority to close down and to tell states when to open up,” Gov. John Carney (D-DE), said on CNN.
If a state meets the criteria and decides to embark on the first phase, the plan says that theaters and other large venues can reopen but with strict physical distancing in place. Schools would remain closed, and visits to hospitals and senior living facilities would be prohibited. Bars would remain closed, and gyms would be able to reopen if they also adhered to social distancing and sanitation protocols.
In that first phase, employers are encouraged to continue their work-at-home policies, while gradually reopening their workplaces. Seniors and those with pre-existing conditions should still shelter in place, while others should still practice social distancing in public areas. There also is a recommendation to minimize non-essential travel.
The guidelines are relaxed in subsequent phases. Movie theaters would be able to operate under moderate physical distancing in the second phases, and limited protocols in phase three.
The recommendations do not spell out a time frame, but they make clear that a return to “normal” life is not going to happen any time in the immediate future.