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White House outlines three-phase plan for reopening U.S.

Trump leaves decision on when to reopen up to individual states.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday outlined a three-phase plan to allow states to lift restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI
The White House Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday outlined a three-phase plan to allow states to lift restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

April 16 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday presented a plan to allow states to lift restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The plan -- known as "Opening Up America" -- will take place in three phases, with individual governors maintaining the authority to decide when to reopen upon meeting certain thresholds set out by the Trump administration.

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"We are not opening all at once but one careful state at a time and some states will be able to open up sooner than others," Trump said. "Some states are not in the kind of trouble that others are in."

Task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that to enter phase one, states must have plans to ensure the health and safety of workers in critical industries and meet certain requirements in testing and contact tracing. They must also be able to independently supply Personal Protective Equipment and critical medical equipment to hospitals and have the ability to surge intensive care unit capacity.

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States must also exhibit a downward trajectory of influenza- and COVID-like illnesses as well as documented coronavirus cases and positive tests within a 14-day period. Hospitals must also ensure the ability to treat all patients without crisis care.

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Under phase one, vulnerable individuals must continue to shelter in place, social distance should be maximized when in public, social gatherings should be limited to no more than 10 people and non-essential travel should be minimized.

In this phase, telework should be encouraged and special considerations should be made for vulnerable workers while returning to work in phases. Birx said that schools should remain closed, visits to hospitals and senior living facilities are prohibited and elective surgeries can resume on an outpatient basis.

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Large venues and gyms will be able to operate under strict physical distancing.

Upon reaching phase two, many of the same restrictions remain, but gatherings can increase to as many as 50 people, non-essential travel can resume, schools, daycares and camps are permitted to re-open, and elective surgeries can resume on an outpatient and in-patient basis.

In phase three, vulnerable individuals would be permitted to resume public interactions while practicing physical distancing and unrestricted staffing of worksites can resume, while low-risk populations are encouraged to minimize time spent in crowded environments.

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Birx added, however, that Americans should maintain certain hygiene practices such as frequently washing their hands and refraining from touching their faces.

"Phase three is essentially returning to our 'new normal' with all of what we talked about through all phases, continuing the good hygiene practices, continuing the respect for spaces between individuals because we know that we still have an issue with asymptomatic spread," she said.

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National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said individual states will begin to open at different times and each area must exhibit that they have not experienced a resurgence in the virus before moving on to the next phase.

"You go into phase one, if you get no rebound and you satisfy the gating for yet again a second time, then you go to phase two. If you have no rebound and you satisfy the gating criteria for a third time you go into phase three," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement in response to the outline describing the plan as "vague and inconsistent" and stating Trump has not addressed recommendations from scientists to ensure national rapid testing.

"The president's continued insistence on moving forward without testing, contact tracing, demographic data collection and a respect for science and the facts risks further death and economic disaster," said Pelosi.

Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, said Trump offered a "false choice" between economy and health.

"If you don't fix the health side of it, the economy is never going to get right," Biden said on CNN. "You're never going to be in the place where you get remotely a new normal."



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