U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Thursday he is empowering state governors to decide when they will reopen their states to economic activity after mass closures caused by the novel coronavirus, even though such authority is not his to give.
Trump said during his daily evening press conference that the gradual processes will be undertaken by governors who "will be empowered" by his guidelines "to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states."
“If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that, and if they believe it is time to reopen, we will allow them the freedom and guidance to accomplish that task, and very, very quickly depending on what they want to do," he said.
Trump has repeatedly and falsely sought to portray himself as the sole authority on when the country can reopen, saying on Monday he has "total authority" to decide when the U.S. reopens.
The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution defines the principal of federalism in the U.S. It states explicitly that "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
That article gives states what is known as "police powers," which includes issuing and enforcing public health laws.
Indeed, state governors have been the ones to impose non-essential business shutdowns in their territories and called on residents to remain at home in a bid to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Much as Trump issued federal guidelines recommending that people adhere to social distancing measures, his new set of guidelines establishes suggestions for states to adhere to as they begin what several governors have already said will have to be a slow and measured approach.
- Trump administration plan envisions three-phase gradual approach
The administration's plan proposes a three-phase approach for states to reopen once state or regional "gating" criteria are met that essentially boil down to reduced coronavirus transmissions, robust testing regimes, and the ability of hospitals to treat patients without crisis care.
The first phase asks employers to continue to encourage teleworking for employees who are able to do so, close common areas at workplaces, and urges employers to cancel all non-essential travel. Groups of more than 10 people where social distancing is not possible should be avoided.
Schools that have closed should remain closed, while movie theaters, sporting venues, and places of worship would be allowed to operate under "strict physical distancing protocols."
Under phase two, groups of up to 50 people would be allowed to congregate as long as social distancing would be feasible and adhered to. Non-essential travel would be allowed to continue at this point.
Employers would still be encouraged to have employees work from home "whenever possible and feasible," and large venues such as movie theaters and sporting venues would be allowed to operate "under moderate physical distancing protocols."
Bars would be allowed to open during this phase insofar as they "operate with diminished standing-room occupancy."
In the final phase, communities vulnerable to the coronavirus such as the elderly and individuals with pre-existing health conditions would be allowed to resume public interactions. People considered "low-risk" would be encouraged to minimize time in crowded environments.
Staffing at worksites would be allowed to take place without restrictions, and visits at senior care facilities would be allowed to resume.
Large venues would be allowed to operate "under limited physical distancing protocols."
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