Trump cautiously moots reopening parts of America for business even as toll mounts – Times of India


WASHINGTON: The United States began re-opening for business in some thinly-populated states largely unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic under President Trump’s three-phase guidelines unveiled on Friday, even as the national toll spiked up to over 33,000 dead with record daily fatalities in trade- and business-heavy states such as New York and Michigan.
After the daily death count fell to around 1500 per day on April 12 and 13, suggesting a desired flattening of the curve, the US toll has shot up to more than 2000 per day over the past 72 hours, including a sharply-revised 6185 deaths on April 14 on account of fatalities that were previously not attributed to the coronavirus.
Despite this, and amid apprehension in many quarters that re-opening the country too soon to jumpstart the economy on which his political fortunes hinge, President Trump rolled out a sketchy road map at the daily White House briefing while leaving the final call and granular details to state governors.
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As per the Trump road map that some of the economically less critical states are ready to embrace, phase one will allow large public venues such as restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues, gyms, and places of worship to operate under strict social distancing rules. Schools will remain closed, non-essential travel minimized, and working from home where possible is recommended. Vulnerable people will be asked to shelter in place and socializing beyond ten people will be discouraged.
According to Trump, 29 states are “in the ballgame” to open soon but he would leave it to governors to call their own shots. “We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump said, noting that the new guidelines were “based on hard verifiable data.”
Most of the states itching to re-open are Trump redoubts in Middle America which are less affected by the coronavirus than states on the eastern and western seaboard – like New York, California, and Washington — that are largely Democratic, more globally engaged, and bring in much of the lolly for the United States. Governors of these latter states have indicated that they are not about to relax social distancing guidelines until they are convinced they have flattened the curve, while suggesting that Trump is grandstanding to gain political points.
In fact, even some Republican governors of a largely Democratic state such as Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Democratic governors of Republican states, such as Kentucky Andy Beshear, have looked beyond political partisanship to caution against premature re-opening that will allow the virus to surge again.
“Here in the Washington-Baltimore corridor we’re still heading up that curve … it would really be the worst possible time to put our people out there and endanger them,” Maryland’s Hogan said in a rare defiance of Trump in the GOP. Mayors of major cities, which tend to be coronavirus hotspots, are also leery of reopening too quickly given that infections and deaths seem to spike each time there is a relaxing of the shut down.
But Trump’s mostly rural constituency is champing at the bit, eager to reopen, even as protests are breaking out in some places over the lock down. The President too is worried over the jobs numbers — his #1 political talking point – with 22 million Americans, 13 per cent of the work force or one out of every seven workers, out of work and filing unemployment claims. If the pain of shut down goes on any longer, some experts fear unemployment numbers could go up to one in four Americans out of work as the economic contagion goes beyond hotels, restaurants, and airlines to other sectors.
While Trump initially hoped for an all-systems-go reopening that would gun the economy roaring back into action, experts appear to have prevailed on him to allow a calibrated restoration, some even suggesting that the re-opening be done county by county rather than state by state. Some have gone to the extent of suggesting issuing “immunity certificates” — based on an antibody blood test – that could help reopen the economy by allowing those who have overcome the virus to safely return to work, eat at restaurants, go to movies, attend sports etc. The fear though is such a route will create a special class of elites – the opposite of victims whose homes were marked with a cross during plague in 14th century Europe.x



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