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Here’s the federal government’s plan for reopening the country, starting in May

Published Apr 15th, 2020 10:47PM EDT
Coronavirus update
Image: Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock

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  • When will the coronavirus quarantines end? That’s the million-dollar question everyone is asking right now — and, it turns out, an answer is starting to come into view.
  • President Trump on Thursday is set to lay out a kind of blueprint for reopening the country, which would happen in stages and also be determined to a large degree by the severity of the coronavirus outbreaks in the individual states — with the recovery proceeding under locally set guidelines, inspired by the federal government.
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The end of the status quo when it comes to the coronavirus-related quarantines that have been in place for weeks around the country is starting to come into view.The federal government has worked up a multi-stage plan to support the reopening of the country and the economy, which would unfold in three stages as outlined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to The Washington Post, phase one will run through May 1 and broadly consist of messaging around what comes next. Phase two would last until May 15 and entail mass production of protective equipment and test kits, since much more intense and targeted testing will be required once the country starts slowly getting back to normal. Speaking of which, that’s step three — back to business, as it were, but under locally-set guidelines.

Within those respective steps are also different levels of prioritization. The CDC, for example, wants to move quickly to “reopen community settings where children are cared for, including K-12 schools, daycares, and locally attended summer camps, to allow the workforce to return to work,” per the newspaper. “Other community settings will follow with careful monitoring for increased transmission that exceeds the public health and health care systems.”

President Trump, meanwhile, appears set to walk through some or all of this on Thursday, which is when he’s said he’ll lay out a blueprint for reopening the country while allowing individual states to exercise discretion, depending on the severity of their individual coronavirus outbreaks. Which is distinct from his stance earlier this week during one of his now-daily press conferences, in which he responded to a question about how much power he has to compel states to follow a federal playbook that the president’s authority is “total.”

The president had initially hoped to get this process started in time for churches around the country to be packed on Easter Sunday, until it became clear the crisis was still too acute for that goal. Then, as now, there remains a duality of competing interests here. The US currently has the largest number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the world, with the latest total standing at around 610,000 cases and more than 26,000 deaths around the US.

At the same time, at least 17 million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of this crisis, which has entailed widespread quarantines and business closures. The trick is to start undoing those closures, but no so fast that it sparks another outbreak of infections.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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