WASHINGTON — After all the talk of “total authority” and threats of constitutional showdowns with the states, President Trump’s big plan to reopen the economy boils down to this: It’s cool if y’all decide.
New benchmarks shared with governors on a call Thursday aim to help states return to normal life from various stages of coronavirus lockdown. But they’re not mandatory, and each governor is supposed to proceed at their own pace.
Trump’s new lead-from-behind approach follows his tub-thumping boasts about his power to make states reopen at his command, a point that had been contested by constitutional scholars. Now, instead of backing it up, Trump is telling the governors to do their own thing.
“You are going to call your own shots,” Trump told the governors on a video conference call, CNN reported, citing a person familiar with the conversation.
While they’re not obligatory, the recommendations appear intended to lay down a common framework for governors to follow, depending on the conditions they see in their state. The guidelines suggest reopening in a series of three phases, according to leaked copies of the plan.
To get to each new phase, states are supposed to demonstrate two weeks of descending levels of positive cases, treat patients without crisis care, and maintain robust testing programs. Or, essentially, do whatever they think makes sense in their state.
“State and local officials may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances,” the plan says.
The phases look like this:
—Vulnerable individuals (meaning older people and those with preexisting conditions) should continue to shelter in place.
—Everyone should continue to maximize physical distance when in public.
—Employers should continue to encourage telework and keep common areas closed.
—Social settings of more than 10 people should be avoided.
—Non-essential travel can resume.
—Schools can reopen.
—Bars, gyms, and other facilities can begin opening so long as they maintain certain precautions involving standing room, social distancing and keeping headcount down.
—Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place.
—Vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions while continuing to exercise social distancing.
—Bars can expand their standing room capacity, and visits to hospitals and senior-care facilities can resume.
—Low-risk individuals are still recommended to minimize time spent in crowded environments.
The plan comes after states run by governors across the country formed their own regional groups to coordinate their responses in a clear rebuttal to the president. Groups of Northeastern, Midwestern and Western states are coordinating their own timeline for re-opening, appeared fully ready to disregard the president’s advice, even before his administration explicitly told them to on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in some places, public frustration with stay-at-home orders is mounting. Crowds demanding to “#ReOpenAmerica” have staged rallies in Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, and Kentucky this week.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)