Governors disregarding White House guidelines on reopening
A man wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus walks past a closed Dolce & Gabbana store, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan in New York. Nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus outbreak deepened the worst U.S. economic catastrophe in decades. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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Many don't meet the thresholds for reopenings.

Many Governors across the U.S. are disregarding or creatively interpreting White House guidelines in easing their states’ lockdowns and letting businesses reopen, an Associated Press analysis found.

The AP determined that 17 states do not appear to meet one of the key benchmarks set by the White House for loosening up — a 14-day downward trajectory in new cases or infection rates. And yet many of those have begun to reopen or are about to do so, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.

Because of the broad way in which the non-binding guidelines are written, other states, including Georgia, have technically managed to meet the criteria and reopen despite not seeing a steady decline in cases and deaths.

Asked at the White House on Thursday about states that are reopening without meeting some of the federal government’s benchmarks, President Donald Trump said: “The Governors have great power as to that, given by us. We want them to do that. We rely on them. We trust them. And hopefully, they are making the right decisions.”

The push to reopen across the country comes amid pressure from businesses that are collapsing by the day and workers who have been thrown out of a job. Over 33 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits over the past seven weeks, and a highly anticipated report on Friday is expected to show U.S. unemployment as high as 16%, a level not seen since the Depression.

Elsewhere around the world, the Bank of England projected that Britain’s economy will shrink by 14% this year, its biggest decline since 1706, when Europe was embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession.

The economic woes have affected even brand-name businesses, with Neiman Marcus filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the first U.S. department store chain to be toppled by the outbreak.

The reopening debate in the U.S. echoes that underway in Europe, where regional and political rifts are emerging over how fast to lift the lid on the lockdowns.

French Mayors are resisting the government’s call to reopen schools, while Italian Governors want Rome to ease lockdown measures faster. As the British government looks to reopen the economy, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has warned that acting too fast could let the virus wreak havoc again.

Public health experts around the world have cautioned that reopening too soon, without widespread testing and tracing, could enable the virus to come surging back with tragic consequences.

The U.S. has recorded over 75,000 deaths and 1.3 million confirmed infections. But this week, University of Washington researchers nearly doubled their projection of deaths in the U.S. to about 134,000 through early August, largely to reflect the loosening of stay-at-home restrictions.

When Trump announced the guidelines April 16, he declared a “new front in our war” and said he was “establishing clear scientific metrics and benchmarks on testing, new case growth and hospital capacity that must be met before advancing each phase.”

Since then, many states have reopened while daily cases and infection rates have either plateaued or continued to climb, the AP analysis found. Some states are going it alone, using their own criteria, not the White House’s.

The White House has not been specific about how states should calculate the 14-day downward trajectory. Depending on how you calculate it, a state might pass or fail. The AP analyzed counts of tests and confirmed cases compiled by Johns Hopkins University and looked at the numbers using a rolling seven-day average to account for day-to-day variability in test reporting.

As governments grapple with when to restart their economies, the Trump administration also has shelved a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places.

The 17-page report with detailed instructions on what precautions to take was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told it “would never see the light of day,” according to a CDC official who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Asked Thursday about the CDC report, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Deborah Birx said: “No one has stopped those guidelines. We’re still in editing.” She told CNN, ”It was more about simplification.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has eased some rules to allow salons, tattoo parlors and restaurants to reopen with restrictions in most counties. Churches were allowed to resume in-person services, weddings and funerals on Monday, with some restrictions.

But both new cases and the rate of positive test results have increased in Nebraska in recent weeks. Ricketts said Wednesday that the number of new cases is a poor indicator because it is naturally going to increase as the state ramps up testing.

He suggested that the lockdown restrictions are too drastic. “We could ban just about all deaths on the interstate by reducing the speed to 5 mph, but we don’t do that,” he said.

Georgia has embarked on the most aggressive reopening schedule in the country. It has met one of the White House criteria by recording a decrease in the rate of positive test results, but it has seen nearly 600 more deaths and a hot spot in a poultry-processing area since Gov. Brian Kemp moved to ease business restrictions.

The head of Utah’s response, Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, has implemented a color-coded reopening system that was in the works before the White House issued its guidelines.

“We had that plan long before there was a federal plan,” Burton said. “It’s a solid plan that lays out the road to recovery.”

Among other things, the White House guidelines say that before reopening, states should have a downward trend in flu and COVID-19-like illnesses for 14 days; hospitals should be able to treat all patients without crisis care; and robust testing should be in place for at-risk health workers.

But there are few specifics, and the plan says local officials “may need to tailor the application of these criteria to local circumstances.”

Of the 33 states that have had a 14-day downward trajectory of either cases or positivity rates, 25 are partially opened or moving to reopen within days, the AP analysis finds.

Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin, which have not seen a 14-day decline in cases or rates of positive tests, remain closed despite meeting some other benchmarks.

Many Governors are focusing on the criteria that call for a reduction in the percentage of positive tests for COVID-19. Up to now, many states have been doing limited testing, typically on their sickest residents. The percentage of people testing positive has dropped as testing expanded to the broader population in recent weeks.

Public health experts say the guidance from the top has been anything but clear. In addition to burying the CDC report, the Trump administration has tried to push responsibility for expanding testing capacity onto the states.

“We’re a federalist society, so some of the blame goes to the Governors and some of the blame goes to the President. But the responsibility for coordinating and enforcing and implementing a national plan comes from the White House,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University.

He likened it to “an orchestra without a conductor.”

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 3.8 million people and killed over a quarter-million, by Johns Hopkins’ count, which experts agree understates the dimensions of the pandemic because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.

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Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Margaret Blustine

    May 7, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    Why leave out fla is also state reopened not meeting criteria and has 6th worse state out of 50 daily increasing total cases and deaths??
    De santis lies cases says yesterday 500 was high 800 again.he’s started leaving out snowbirds living here now. Fla with his loose order high plateau but never declining days even 3. Fla is still rising total daily cases deaths since started.is disaster will happen now.not stable low new cases ever.500 still too high.actual Feb 6 over 800.he has no right open so unsafe lyn because few screaming businesses protesters.is herd immunity now won’t win.economy will crash in 3 weeks.too soon.always.strict lockdown only thing works.he’s wrong do this release of exposure.so fla continues upward track still like italy.now he causing rest fla.to fast spread horribly as now exposure much worse than loose order which neverwas is still 800 600 1000 700 etc etc.slight plateau no declining no flattening even 3 days.he’s lying.fla out of 50 states STILL
    Has steady tracking up total cases and deaths.he has no right unleash this amount exposure in this trump herd immunity experiment obviously using fla to start it.fla daily cases way too high at lowest number meet NO criteria.check facts not words wrong de santis says.fla chart shows fla in bad see saw high cases daily.always.still.rising daily way too much to expose virus rampart like phase 1. Treasure coast look at sevl counties john.steady high increases from 2 weeks ago and he opening restaurants etc.his words aren’t the facts.he’s disregarding criteria.look at true data map johns hopkins.fla needs to know not safe open.never was.never will be now unless now strict lockdown.fla worse totals daily than sevl better states in article.is on fast path to economic crash by end june.for yrs as will be out of control. New strain much more contagious than china.will infect people antibody from 1sthe strain recovered also.fla chart is very bad pls look at above site.nowhere meets criteria safe reopen de santis being used by trump his new plan herd immunity won’t work.325 million people oo much exposure.can’t stop workers ongoing sick til 2022 now.26 plus states meet criteria.fla 6th worse increasing cases and death totals since started.de santis playing politics lying and trump won’t win fla now anyway so de santis needs to stop this rampart runaway phase 1.fla was never ready yet.no strict lockdown.only thing proven worked.de santis did opposite now compounding that mistake with phase 1 catatrosphic fast economy crash now.include fla not ready.look at above true numbers.snowbirds here months died.de santis leaves out.visitors here months dead de santis leaves out. Even with those tricks fla still daily new cases deaths way too high.is true fact fla is 23rd worse cases per capita than out of 50.de santis reporters need check his lies help fla stop reopen get strict lockdown.loose order april and still today numbers way too close worse days 800 plus may 6 and 1200 worse and ever since 560 to 1000 daily still.pls get info out with true fla condition.John please
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  • Margaret Ann Blustine

    May 7, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    Trump service fedl 14 day guidelines.then told de santis other used governors to reopen as he wanted economy back get reelected.they got conned,now de santis twisting truth like trump.trump plan will fail cause fla and nation to crash national economy by August for years,governors have right say no.fla no 14 not even 3 consecutive declining.may 6 actual new cases 800 plus not 500.de santis lying more daily.fla 6th highest total cases in nation and daily totals steadily tracking still up always.doesn’t matter where they are is fla and now he’s destroying treasure coast as has steady daily increasing totals and he’s exposing 23 million people now to vast carriers and unknown infected.tests way too little needs strict lockdown.miami etc still up up up.now may 6 800 plus may 1 1000 etc etc.he’s lying.phase 1 trump told hI’m do as he thinks he can outsmart fast moving virus before November wont happen.virus wins.conned de santis.trump did guidelines then told governors ignore it.its their decision he says as he tells them to and cone them with same track is destroying ame Rica up up up.worse than combined rest world.put fla chart top disastrous climbing usa map is exact catastrophic track.John Hopkins uses true numbers.de santis doesn’t as trump plays deadly game gives fedl guidelines then has governors ignore them to blame the coming disaster of murder on them.but trumps plan will fail.virus will splead out of control nationwide.world sickening workers ongoing thru electionary and 2021. Trump as usual is brainless gets irrational notions that always fail.now he’s conning using governors insanely putting irrational twisted data to con them into being used in a losing battle against this virus.antibody trick words.not enuf no good etc new strain now etc etc. De santis making even more deadly mistake now.not one of states by true guidelines ready phase 1 will destroy economy totally more he opens.that’s what 1st loose order did.now far worse decision that trump wants.is political suicide for de santis.isn’t as bad in fla he says.fla has 6th worse cases climbing every day totals higher.fla is 23rd per capita worse cases total state and rising.that’s truth.he lies.fla is abt as bad as a state can get still.real close worst 4 and soon will be ny.he is blindsided scared of bully trump or just lying stupid.

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