SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The U.S. economy has imploded in the past month amid aggressive measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, with 22 million people filing for unemployment benefits and most factories, stores and other businesses at a virtual standstill.
The governors of Michigan, Florida and other states outlined tentative steps on Friday to reopen their economies, a day after the White House issued guidelines to help states decide when to lift lockdown orders and allow firms to restart and workers to return to their jobs.
President Donald Trump, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, touted the guidelines as a blueprint for a reawakening of the economy, saying growth would soar like a “rocket ship” after the restart.
But the guidelines, and the ways in which experts say they fall short, suggest that revving activity back up to pre-pandemic levels will be anything but smooth or speedy.
States may be ready to end lockdowns once infections have declined for 14 straight days, availability of tests to detect the virus is stable or rising, and if there is enough hospital capacity to treat everyone who gets sick, the guidelines say.
They also call on states to be ready to test all healthcare workers and anybody with symptoms, as well as to be able to trace contacts for people who test positive for the virus.
How many states are ready for that?
None, according to Harvard epidemiologist Bill Hanage, who was among the many experts who took to Twitter on Thursday to criticize the guidelines. Hanage says inadequate testing capacity is the main problem.
The United States has reported more coronavirus infections than any other country, with about 680,000 cases and more than 34,000 deaths. (To track infections by state, see here here)
U.S. testing has been delayed here and chaotic largely due to bureaucratic roadblocks and mistakes at the federal level. Trump, who initially downplayed the threat of the coronavirus outbreak to the country, has pledged to ramp up testing.