President Trump took a first step toward reopening the United States in time for Easter, announcing that his administration will rank counties for coronavirus risk and call for low-risk areas to relax rules.
Trump, who pushed to open the country again after the Christian holiday on April 12, described the plan in a letter to governors after reporting that a record 3.28 million people – 2 percent of the US workforce – applied for unemployment benefits last week.
Countries will be ranked at high risk, medium risk or low risk, and federal guidance can recommend “relaxing social distance,” Thursday’s letter said.
“There is still a long battle ahead, but our efforts are already paying dividends,” Trump wrote. “As we improve protection against the virus, Americans across the country hope that the day will soon come when they can resume their normal economic, social and religious lives.”
Trump continued: “In order to promote this shared goal, my administration is working to publish new guidelines for state and local decision makers to be used to make decisions on maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distance and other measures to mitigate them. This is what we envision: Our expanded testing capabilities will quickly enable us to publish criteria developed in close coordination with the nation’s public health officials and researchers to help classify counties with respect to continuing risks with the virus. “
According to Trump, the ranking system will “include robust surveillance testing, enabling us to monitor the spread of the virus across the country.”
“According to these data-driven criteria,” Trump wrote, “we will propose guidelines that categorize counties as high risk, medium risk or low risk.”
New York is the hardest hit in the COVID-19 crisis with half of the 75,000 US cases – passing 37,000 Thursday – and New Jersey is in second place with more than 4,400 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracking database.
Trump says he wants at least regions of the United States to start life as normal in less than three weeks before Easter.
“I think there are some people who would like to [the economy] to do financially bad, because they think it would be very good to defeat me at the general elections, “Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday. “I’m not going to do anything rash or fast – I don’t. But the country wants to return to work. “