President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a cautious, three-phase approach—one that still gives wide latitude to governors—for reopening the shuttered economy in states that have had low rates of transmission of COVID-19. 

“Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we’re calling, ‘Opening up America again,’” Trump said. “… We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time.”

The president has said he would like to see the economy moving again by—or even before—May 1 in some states. He said the plan is based on “hard, verifiable data” and that the peak death rate from the disease is now behind us. 

>>> When can America reopen? The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, a project of The Heritage Foundation, is gathering America’s top thinkers together to figure that out. Learn more here.

“Thanks to our all-out military operation and the extraordinary devotion of our people, we believe we will experience far fewer deaths than even the optimistic projections,” Trump said.

“We have incredible people that we’re working with, and we’re going to bring our country back, and it’s going to be bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” he said.

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, presented slides to explain the phases of the process of reopening the country. Birx said each phases would be “related to 14 days of decreasing evidence of illness.” 

  • Phase one is designed to “mitigate the risk of resurgence” and would allow public venues, such as arenas, theaters, and restaurants to reopen, only under certain social distancing conditions. However, “all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place,” and low-risk individuals should continue social distancing.
  • Phase two only applies for regions with no evidence of a rebound. Visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and similar locations will remain prohibited. However, schools, day care centers, and camps can reopen, and nonessential travel can resume. Public venues can begin to ease social distancing restrictions.
  • Phase three is also for states or areas with no evidence of a rebound, but has fewer restrictions than phase two. Even vulnerable individuals would have more freedom, but should still practice social distancing, while others are urged to avoid “crowded environments.”

The president noted that “benchmarks must be met at each phase.”

Reacting to the president’s plan, Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James stressed that “good public health policy is good economic policy.”

“The administration is rightly working to restore livelihoods in the midst of catastrophic job losses, while also taking care to balance Americans’ health and safety,” said James, who is also chairwoman of The Heritage Foundation’s 17-member National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. The panel is working to provide recommendations to federal, state, and local governments, as well as to the private sector. 

“I look forward to working with the administration to help move prudently toward getting Americans’ lives back to normal,” she added. 

Vice President Mike Pence said the phased approach will focus on preventing recurrence of the coronavirus in states where it has declined. 

“There is a focus in the president’s new guidelines on the most vulnerable,” Pence said. “We made this very clear to the governors today. These new guidelines for opening up America again can be implemented on a statewide basis or on a county-by-county basis.”

“The predominant and completely driving element that we put into this was the safety and the health of the American public,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who also serves on the White House’s coronavirus task force.