None of the states reopening have fully met White House guidelines, researcher says

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Picture of store manager opening company

Store manager Natalie Hijazi temporarily closes off the entrance to a Pet Fair store inside The Woodlands Mall to help meet the current occupancy limits in place Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in The Woodlands, Texas. The mall reopened Tuesday with increased health and safety measures in place.Texas’ stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic have expired and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has eased restrictions on many businesses that have now opened. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

While more states lift stay-at-home restrictions, none have met all of the White House’s guidelines on when they can safely start to reopen, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said.

“To my knowledge, there are no states that meet all four of those criteria,” said Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins.

She described the four criteria at a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday:

“The first is to see the number of new cases decline for at least two weeks, and some states have met that criteria. But there are three other criteria and we suggest they should all be met,” Rivers said.

Those include having “enough public health capacity to conduct contact tracing on all new cases, enough diagnostic testing to test everybody with Covid-like symptoms” and “enough health care system capacity to treat everyone safely.”

It will take weeks to learn how many new cases and deaths emerge after states start easing restrictions.

But the US still hasn’t done enough to protect residents from the coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The US must overcome major obstacles to help prevent a resurgence of coronavirus, he said. As of Wednesday, more than 1.2 million people in the US have been infected, and more than 71,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“We don’t have the testing capacity now to know where this disease is,” Besser said.

“We have not scaled up the thousands and thousands of contact tracers that we need, we don’t provide safe places for people to isolate or quarantine if they are identified as either having an infection or being in contact.”

A coronavirus task force will continue after all

President Donald Trump said Wednesday the White House coronavirus task force will continue, despite a senior White House official saying Tuesday that the task force will start winding down later this month.

Vice President Mike Pence had confirmed the White House is considering disbanding the task force as early as Memorial Day.

But Trump tweeted Wednesday that the task force will “continue on indefinitely” and shift its focus to “SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.” Task force members may be added or subtracted “as appropriate,” he said.

“We’re now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening,” Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday. “And we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.”

Your top coronavirus questions, answered

States with decreasing and increasing cases start reopening

By this Sunday, at least 43 states will have eased restrictions — ranging from simply reopening parks to allowing more businesses to reopen.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued the first statewide stay-at-home order, announced some retailers such as florists and book shops will be allowed to reopen Friday.

“We’re not going back to normal. We’re going back to a new normal, with adaptations and modifications until we get to immunity until we get to a vaccine,” Newsom said.

For the first time since the outbreak began, the weekly count of coronavirus deaths in California has declined, according to data from the state’s health department. The week ending May 3 saw 505 deaths, a slight drop from the prior week’s report of 527 victims.

But the story is very different in Mississippi, where the state had its largest number of reported deaths in a single day, the governor said Tuesday.

Gov. Tate Reeves also said Mississippi has seen its largest numbers of cases reported in a single day twice in the past week.

On Monday, Reeves announced outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people are allowed starting this week, and dine-in services at restaurants can also resume.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced wedding venues can reopen, though ceremonies and receptions held indoors must limit occupancy to 25%. The limits don’t apply to outdoor wedding receptions, the governor’s office said.

And starting Friday, Texas hair salons, nail salons, tanning salons and pools will also be allowed to reopen as long as long as they maintain certain guidelines.

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