Draft Trump administration plan calls for ‘phased reopening’ of economy

A draft Trump administration plan for reopening the U.S. economy calls for a “phased reopening” that varies across locations depending on local conditions. 

The Washington Post obtained the draft executive summary of the plan, which it reported had been worked on by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While no plan has been finalized or announced, the draft plan calls for a step-by-step reopening of the country and says officials should be ready to retighten social distancing measures if conditions worsen. 

The plan does not give firm dates for reopenings but says some areas with less virus transmission could go first, starting “not before May 1.”

It also makes clear that states and localities will make the decisions on reopening their areas. 

“Decisions on reopening and, alternatively, on intensifying mitigation will be made at the local and state level with guidance and support from the Federal level,” the document states. 

President Trump seemed to echo that idea on Tuesday when he said plans to reopen the country are “close to being finalized” and that he will be “authorizing each individual governor” to implement a local plan. 

The remarks are a shift from Trump’s claims on Monday that he, not governors, had ultimate authority on reopening the country. 

“Lifting stay-at-home orders carefully, on a community by community basis, only when ready, will help extend the gains made from this time of collective social distancing,” the draft document states. “Coming out of mitigation in a controlled way, with robust monitoring systems in place to contain new cases and outbreaks will be critical to navigating the next phase of this pandemic.”

The plan says areas need to meet certain criteria to make sure conditions are improving before starting to reopen. Those include “steadily decreasing infections,” “health system capacity to absorb effect of re-opening” and “public health system capacity for case identification and rapid containment.”

That third condition has been stressed by a wide range of public health experts who say that if blunt measures such as stay-at-home orders are to be eased, there must be greatly increased testing capacity to identify infected people so those individuals can self-isolate and public health staff are able to trace those with whom infected people have interacted.

To that end, the plan calls for “aggressive manufacturing distribution, and use of testing” through May 15. 

It also calls for emergency funding for a “COVID-19 Corps” of public health workers to do contact tracing. That corps would be a combination of CDC staff and newly hired local staff, the document says. 

When areas are ready to reopen, the plan calls for classifying them in three categories: “low mitigation,” “moderate mitigation” and “significant mitigation.”

Low-mitigation areas would reopen first: “Communities where significant spread was never observed, can ‘re-open’ soon.”

Moderate-mitigation areas would be “former hot spots entering controlled recovery.”

And significant-mitigation areas would be current hot spots.

The plan also notes that areas might shift between these categories, retightening social distancing measures if conditions worsen considerably. 

The document says all areas should be ready to “prepare for return to increased mitigation at earliest signs of increased transmission, health care strain.”

The country will not be fully able to ease up on measures to slow the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine, which could take 12 to 18 months, or until enough people are infected to develop widespread immunity. 

“Models indicate 30-day shelter in place followed by 180 day lifting of all mitigation results in large rebound curve – some level of mitigation will be needed until vaccines or broad community immunity is achieved for recovering communities,” the document states. 

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