Washington: President Donald Trump has favoured a phased reopening of the US economy, devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed nearly 50,000 lives and infected over eight lakh people in the country.
More than 95 per cent of the country’s 330 million people are under stay-at-home order as a result of the social mitigation measures, including social distancing, being enforced till May 1.
Trump on Thursday indicated that the stay-at-home order might be extended beyond May 1, but vehemently advocated the need to gradually open up the economy.
In the past few weeks, more than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits and the figure is soon likely to cross 40 million.
Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have projected a negative growth in the US in 2020.
“To keep America gaining momentum, every citizen needs to maintain the vigilance, and we all understand that very well we’ve gone over it many, many times this includes practising good hygiene, maintaining social distance, and the voluntary use of face covering,” Trump said.
“Safe and phased reopening of our economy — it’s very exciting, but it does not mean that we are letting down our guard at all in any way; on the contrary, continued diligence is an essential part of our strategy to get our country back to work to take our country back,” he told reporters at his daily White House news conference on coronavirus.
The data and facts on the ground suggest that the US is making great progress, he said.
In 23 states, new cases have declined. In the peak week, 40 per cent of the American counties have seen a rapid decline in new cases. As many as 46 states report a drop in patients showing coronavirus-like symptoms, he said.
Trump said the US is very close to finding a vaccine for COVID-19.
“We are very close to testing… when testing starts it takes a period of time but we will get it done,” he said.
According to Vice President Mike Pence, data continues to show promising signs of progress in the New York Metro area, New Jersey, Connecticut, Detroit and New Orleans. All appear to be passed their peak and “we are seeing consistent declines” in hospitalisation and cases in regions across the country, he said.
Pence heads the White House Task Force on coronavirus.
“Our task force actually believes that if we continue these mitigation efforts in the days ahead including phased reopening… by early summer, we can be in a much better place as a nation with much of this coronavirus epidemic behind us,” he said.
Pence said 16 states have released formal reopening plans.
“States are beginning to make those plans and we were encouraged to see so many states embracing the phased approach to reopening their economies that’s contemplated in our guidelines for opening America again,” he said.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that restaurants and retail outlets would be allowed to reopen.
“We want to have the majority of businesses open before May 1,” Lee said. “We are working around the clock to get Tennesseans safely back to work in 89 of our counties with the majority of businesses in a position to begin opening their doors next week,” he said at a separate news conference.